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:
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.