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The weird thing is, I'm part of the problem. If I see a site with a big Times New Roman H1 tag, my first thought isn't how easy to read it is... instead, I think, "must be that guy's first attempt at web design..." And when I see a red background with some big, bold images and a tiny row of yellow type in the middle, I think, "they hired a design pro for this job".
Do our brains interpret small type in funky fonts and colors as "high design content" just because simple HTML pages don't normally incorporate that look? It seems like the less usable the page is, the "better" the design looks. If I'm working on a design, the left side of my brain is telling me to use simple, readable, user-resizable text while the right side is whispering, "ugly! ugly!"...
you're really not cool enough to view this site
Pat_S, I never thought of it that way before. I think the observation is right on the money. In the same way that many web designers ignore WebTV browsers and figure that segment is too small or too uncool, the stylish designers who use extra-small type just write off users with inappropriate monitor setups (or less-than-perfect vision) as not worth worrying about.
I generally never see important content by pro designers done in tiny type, but I often see design elements done in tiny type.
Typography and the use of tinytype can be an incredible design element.
I think that there is a misconception that if it is text, it is there to be read, this is not necessarily the case. We need to take in a page as a whole by using a designers visual cues, and assume that he is familiar enough to the content to be able to tell us what is to be focused on and what is ambient. Style and ambience are, like it or not, a very important part of modern web design. Most artistic designers realize that pages are skimmed and not read, so if they make their text too small, it is done with a purpose. The effect being that particular section is skimmed over, or that particular section is agressively keyed in on by the user. 12 point times new roman just isn't exciting to most and as was said earlier, I usually veiw it as a first go at web design. The negative conotations of overly readable text are damaging to my demographic. Mid to late twenties, and want to spend money on what I find to be cool. If I see a page laid out for 5 year olds or for 60 year olds, I am generally thinking that my demo is being avoided and am less likely to drop money on their product. Image is everything. Targeted demographics are the words of the day. Small type can be effective.
As for only hobby sites (hip small sites) having small fonts. I found ESPN's site to have some redicuously small fonts in some cases when viewed on browsers that weren't IE on Windows. I believe they have improved things slightly.
>>usability is sitting on a comfy sofa in your living room...top class usability is sitting on a comfy sofa that is ergonomically designed to ensure that it doesn't cause back problems...are you really suggesting that no furniture designer is capable of making such an object look good?
Not at all. Strictly useable is bare bones i.e. orange crate functionality. I believe the goal is making it both useful and attractive. If small fonts get in the way, and are used only because of the "cool quotient", you've just shot yourself in the foot as a designer. But there are as many interpretations of "useful-meets-cool" as there are designers.
Because this is a graphics forum, I feel inclined to go more into the style aspect of this - as the usability aspect is a given. I don't believe the majority of people in this forum forego one for another. Most WebmasterWorld members seem to be professionals and understand the two elements go hand-in-hand.
Again, it's all quite personal. That leaves a million-and-one ways to skin the proverbial cat.
No excuse for compromising useability, but probably the same reason most of you wouldn't touch H1 tags throughout the years despite the potential SE gains. I think if (or when) the time comes that larger fonts hava a smoother appearance, it won't be so hip to force people to pull out a magnifying glass.
Usable/Usability wrt software/web means that it offers effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in meeting a user's requirements.
eg "the orange-crate sofa offers very poor usability: it is uncomfortable, the wrong height and lacks back support"
It is a surprisingly common mistake to assume that usability means utilitarian. This is absolutely not the case.
Don Norman's Design of Everyday Things is a great book to read if you want to know more about this fascinating field.
you can still carry content with graphics on the web...but it is much harder to use them to get the same full frontal visual assault that can be done with print
the ideal web designer would be Mondrian...all that emotion in a few simple lines and blocks...then maybe Picasso...I'm sure he could do more with a 3k background gif than most of us can do with the complete designer's toolkit
Usability, as preached by Jakob Nielsen and as I understand it, simply means that your website makes it very easy for visitors to complete necessary tasks (or from a more marketing perspective: to do what you want them to do...). It doesn't inherently include making the site pleasing to look at in any way, and doesn't even require that the site be fun to use.
In the Jakob Nielsen ideal usable web universe, all links would be bright blue underlined text, which turned purple after you'd clicked it, and flashed bright red for the moment your mouse button was depressed. Personally, I think default text link colors are the visual equivalent of an orange crate: They may be clearly usable as links, but they aren't aesthetically pleasant in any way.
An orange crate will give you somewhere to sit, just as a bright blue underlined link will give you something to click. Neither one will accomplish it's task with any sense of style, design or pleasantry. I don't think the point of the orange crate example was to argue that usability had to be physically uncomfortable, but rather to say that the widely touted "guidelines" for usability on the web were the aesthetic equivalent of an orange crate.
Ergonomics and web usability are not the same thing... According to the Jakob Nielsen ideal usable web universe, navigation bars should go on the left, because that's where people expect them to be. From an ergonomic standpoint, it makes much more sense to put them on the right, because that's where the window scroll bar goes. Less repetitive back -and-forth-from-the-navbar-to-the-scrollbar mouse movement is better/more ergonomic, right? But apparently not more usable...
Likewise, in the furniture universe, there are chairs designed with swiveling armrests and precisely tilted seats, with a chest-support rather than a back rest, adjustable in every way... they are precisely ergonomically designed for people who work at a table with their hands all day. Would they be "usable" for the average American (or average websurfer?) Heck no... at first glance, everyone would sit in them backwards, using the chest support as a back rest, and then complain that the armrests didn't swivel the right direction.
According to the Jakob Nielsen ideal usable web universe, navigation bars should go on the left, because that's where people expect them to be. From an ergonomic standpoint, it makes much more sense to put them on the right, because that's where the window scroll bar goes.
It would make sense to put navigation bars on the right only if you could be sure that they wouldn't be cut off on low-resolution displays.
"Usability is the measure of the quality of a user's experience when interacting with a product or system"
Nielsen I s'pose carries some responsibility for the misunderstanding. He has popularised usability by producing small, simplified nuggets of usability info and folks have assumed that nielsen's alertbox = usability.
It is somewhat ironic that you appear to think ergonomics = good and usability = bad, when the only real difference is that ergonomics applies to real things and usability applies to virtual things:).
Perhaps if people only used the proper term of "Human Factors" it would be clearer to all.
Oddly, I find Nielsen's bland web site kind of like those cabinets - there just aren't enough visual cues to tell me where to look first.
12 point times new roman just isn't exciting to most and as was said earlier, I usually veiw it as a first go at web design.
Normally, I think Times Roman is about the most boring font there is. But I have an article, [url="http://www.medicalese.org/dictation1.html"]Cicero Teaches Dictation: Lessons From Ancient Rome[/url], on my site, where, because of the historical overtones and because we wanted a feeling of authority, Times was the only choice that made sense. The first lines of the more important paragraphs are in bold caps, but in a slightly smaller size than the rest of the text, for the same reason.
The rest of the site is in Georgia, which we didn't think was appropriate for the Cicero article.
"Points" in a print measurement, but in any case, I disagree that using Times or Times New Roman is indicative of a "first go at Web design." I use it on my site for several reasons:
1) It's easy to read. (Much easier than a sans-serif font, IMHO).
2) It's the default browser serif font.
3) It's platform-independent.
3) It's familiar to readers (after all, they've been reading it most of their lives), so it doesn't get in the way of editorial content.
My opinion: If you want to get fancy with type and formatting, use Quark XPress or PageMaker and Acrobat to create PDF files.
I disagree that using Times or Times New Roman is indicative of a "first go at Web design." I use it on my site for several reasons:
1) It's easy to read. (Much easier than a sans-serif font, IMHO).
That may be true in a print environment, but I could swear that I've seen studies which indicate that sans-serif fonts such as Arial, Verdana, and Helvetica are easier to read on computer monitors. Anyone else familiar with this?
I don't think usability is necessarily bad any more than I think Flash is necessarily bad. Heck, I don't even think the two are totally incompatible. My main point was that I don't think usability and ergonomics are the same thing.
I think people who get entirely too enthusiastically on one bandwagon or another... hip design or usability, end up losing sight of the value of the other side of the debate, and so you end up with hideous looking usable sites, and beautiful unusable ones, and neither side actually ends up furthering it's own agenda at all.
This study on fonts [psychology.wichita.edu] shows some interesting differences along these lines, if you dig into the results.
Online magazines like Salon, and many newspaper websites, set their body copy with Times New Roman or Georgia - and Salon at least makes it look pretty hip. Because the overwhelming number of sites use Arial, right now serif fonts on a well designed page stand out from the crowd.
Back to the "tiny type" issue. This is also a trend in print, and it's a trend that wins awards. But there is a growing body of companies who see that IT DOESN'T DO THEM MUCH GOOD AS ADVERTISING.
The rule is "form follows function." It's that rule that tiny type violates so very often.
If advertising and marketing design are art in any sense at all, they are commercial art. Whether they accompish their commercial purpose should be the number one question.
Otherwise they are like a beautiful, sleek sports car that goes 0 to 60 in 45 seconds.
I could swear that I've seen studies which indicate that sans-serif fonts such as Arial, Verdana, and Helvetica are easier to read on computer monitors.
Tedster offered a good answer to this, but I'll add my own personal observation: namely, that sans-serif is easy to read in small chunks, but it tends to be either too light, too dark, or just too hard on the eyes in large copy blocks.
Mind you, that observation isn't very original. Most books, magazine articles, and newspaper stores are set in serif type. If sans-serif type is used in a textbook, for example, it's probably used in text boxes or for captions. Similarly, you won't find too many magazines that use sans-serif type throughout.
On my own plain-vanilla, quick-to-download, functional but hardly elegant site, I use the browser default font (which is likely to be Times/Times New Roman) for most editorial content and Verdana for navigation links. Verdana isn't pretty, and it's downright ugly in standard-size body text, but it's extremely legible at small sizes--which makes it ideal for tables of navigation links within an article.
I think people who get entirely too enthusiastically on one bandwagon or another... hip design or usability, end up losing sight of the value of the other side of the debate, and so you end up with hideous looking usable sites, and beautiful unusable ones
If you get into the usability/Human factors community you will find there is no debate: most folks who understand usability understand that hip design and usability are not incompatible. ditto flash and usability. It's just not an issue.
imho its only the hip deezyners who are still thinking there are two sides to the debate (or a debate at all).
Nielsen <> Usability!
useit.com <> a good example of a usable web site
There will ALWAYS be a debate, you can please some of the people most of the time but you can't please all the people all the time.
Its a fact of life that people have completely different viewpoints on the same thing...cars, women, houses, art, furniture, web sites.
In mine (and a few other peoples )opinion Nielsen's useit.com is not only UGLY but could also vastly improve the usability of the site.
Tiny Type is only too tiny if you cannot read it. "Tiny" type to you might be "normal" type to me.
Setting the size to the "smaller" preference sometimes, but not always, improves Google's readability for me, and my eyes aren't that great. I think it's got to do in part with whether the text blocks cohere enough for you to take them in easily. On Google, the default size, for the font they use (Arial, I assume), is just large enough that sometimes I feel I'm looking more at white space within the words than I am at the words themselves.