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User-Centered Design and Web Development is a solid introduction to many of the key concepts behind UCD. Very […]

User-Centered Design and Web Development is a solid introduction to many of the key concepts behind UCD. Very useful is their top ten usability guidelines, set out in simple language for anyone to understand.

The one that caught my eye was:

“Memory Load
The site should reduce user memory load. Screen elements should be meaningful and consistent across the site so users can recognize, instead of remember, what elements mean from one page to another. New items and functions should relate to ones the user already knows. ”

It seems to me that this key element of interaction/interface design is too often forgotten. The web is essentially without standards, save for a few young ones (tabs, anyone?) and sometimes it seems like users are forced to learn a new OS everytime they follow a link. Cruel acts such as removing labels on the second page level, or worse yet, changing labels is essentially an act of cruelty — and for what? because the site creator is too lazy to QA the site? Or has some stylish need that pre-empts the user’s? Or simply that the creator has used the site for so long in the process of designing and building it, and is already bored with it before a visitor has arrived…

Meanwhile back at the ranch, my infamously handsome husband mentioned to me that color palms are known to be easier to use, because color icons are easier to remember. Anyone see any studies on this? I tried googling it and failed.


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  1. 1

    You may find some related studies in the studies on Apple’s transition of Mac from greyscale to color. I am very color retentive and will forget if I have been to a site if the color scheme changes, such is the monthly occurrence at Digital Web.

  2. 2
    Jared Spool

    While there might be some measurable difference, I’d be surprised if you’d see any substantial difference. Most of the palm interaction has little to do with icons, whether greyscale or color.

    I find it hard to fathom that color palm users have substantially more free time than greyscale palm users.


  3. 3
    Bruce Stowell

    Apologies for going back into history. I think Bob Bailey of Bell labs did some studies in 1982-3 for screen design, on two aspects mentioned.
    People have a limited number of items that they can keep in memory at a given time, 5-6, I think.
    User error rate tests did not result in reduced errors down as screen designers began migrating to color monitors from black and white monitors. I found it hard to believe, but the test numbers were accurate.

  4. 4

    Maybe the Color powered Palm doesn’t yet make a substantial enhancement on the device’s usability, but I wouldn’t like to leave this as a genelarization.

    Color adds another dimension to the information being represented. The good use of color in information design can exploit the most out of small screen – low resolution devices.

    Right now i can’t think of any web interfaces that take full advantage of color coding information, but from the real world i can remember two:

    • This large courier shipping center I visited last year, used color tags to classify the destiny of each package. Workers could quickly recognize the proper zone for each package form afar, without the need to be at reading distance.
    • I have a multi-plug thingy for my home desktop computer. Of course, I have more peripherials and electric devices in the desk than the multi-plug can handle. When I need to unplug the un-needed printer to liberate power for the scanner, I have two black plugs that look almost the same. So I added color tags to each male-plug to identify the device I handling: out goes blue, in goes yellow, ready!.

    I think the challenge is to take advantage of color in our projects just as effectively as these real life exmaples show.

  5. 5


    Simple as that. Standard html colors are the example for adding meaning to color on the web, how could i forget?

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