“Things make sense to us. The identity of a thing is a meaningful style that expresses the usability of the thing.” The usability is a dynamic order of the praxis in which the thing is embedded and in which we are ourselves de-centered. (Keller) Usability is simply decoding and understanding as a reader, of a Web page application for example, how to navigate the site conveniently. Many new web designers produce Web pages that seem to ignore fundamental principles of “good design”: full of extraordinary colored backgrounds, animated pictures, multiple colors and styles of text, and little to no navigation or web-based structure. (Karper) Individuals who have been creating Web pages for years now are also beginning to fall into the pattern of the flashy applications in order to draw in users, but still stress the usability factor. The processes of Web design have been studied from usability perspectives, but little research exists which considers Web design as a unique rhetorical and composing process. “Most existing rhetoric and composition scholarship treats the processes of Web design as a being a transfer of existing composing processes for print rather than seeing it as a unique process shaped by the new rhetorical situations which arise in writing on/for the Web,” (Karper).

Study

Karper conducted a study with 13 beginning Web designers who composed pages. The research presented in this study attempts to contribute to a greater understanding of how rhetorical choices are made on the Web, as well as how technology works in assisting or complicating these choices. (Karper) The designers, constructed Web pages and common strategies such as using the “look and feel” of pages created by other designers in their discourse communities. Participants struggled equally with making rhetorical choices about the content, arrangement, and form of their Web pages. “The participants’ desire to present a certain kind of identity, or ethos, on the Web lead to the deployment of identification strategies such as imitation and modeling.” (Karper) This statement correlates with Garrety and Badham’s study on user-centered design. Decisions for usability on Web design arises “out of the complex and unpredictable socio-technical mixes that are generated when people attempt to put them into practice.” (Garrety & Badham)

Don’t Assume

It’s natural to assume that everyone is like us and that “if it works for me, it’ll work for them.” Often, this isn’t true:
  • You know what the site is trying to say. They are coming to it from outside your context.
  • You know the organization’s vocabulary. They probably don’t.
  • You know how parts of the site fit together. They probably don’t.
  • They may be much more casual, infrequent, less motivated visitors than you are.
Instead of assuming what the user will do, perform usability tests (Redish).