copyright DrewVigalIf you have anything to do with web design, you really need to put Yet Another Girl’s <Wax></Wax> blog on your reading list. Why? because she is one of the very, very few people out there talking about web design and “usability” in terms of, well, actual usability. Her latest post, “Are You Designing for These Users?” is a great wakeup call for anyone who wants to increase their traffic, or who sees their user base as “the public,” for any arbitrary value of “public.” In it, she reminds us that public access points, in particular public libraries, still provide millions of users with their main link to the internet, and that the sessions those users initiate violate most of the accepted “norms” that most web designers, particularly “Web 2.0” (can we kill that phrase now, please?) designers seem to assume hold true everywhere and always. The important thing to keep in mind, is that she’s using library sign-ons as an example of an entire class of users. Most of what she says holds true for any public access site, including internet cafes and airports. And increasingly, her observations apply to corporate environments, as well.

Some highlights of her common sense observations that people seem to forget:

  • Not everyone can choose or upgrade their browser, flash version, JavaScript, or Java VM;
  • Not everyone can turn off pop-up-blocking;
  • Not all monitors are larger than 800×600;
  • Not everyone can override bad SSL certs, or change security settings;
  • Not everyone can change their proxy settings;
  • Not everyone can wait for forgotten passwords to be emailed; sometimes access is limited to 30, or even 15 minutes;
  • Not everyone can accept cookies.

I’ll add a few of my own reminders:

  • Not everyone has broadband, particularly not in the US;
  • Not everyone has the most current OS, let alone browser;
  • Users expect the back button to work; this is a legitimate expectation.

Image copyright DrewVigal