The usability of photos and URLs

Usability mistakes to avoid when using photos in your website

There is often a temptation to use photos to brighten up a page without giving much thought to whether it helps serve a real purpose, or whether it might even be detrimental to the page. This article contains several useful tips about how to use the right photos, and what to avoid when using images on a webpage.

URLs are for people, not computers

URLs (the technical name for web addresses) are highly important for computers as they uniquely identify every page on the web. The content of URLs is also hugely important for search engine rankings. But many users also find them a useful way to navigate a website.

URL as UI

Some useful tips on creating good URLs from a usability point of view. This is a very old article, but the advice still holds true.

Microsoft Research have conducted an eyetracking study of search engine use that found that people spend 24% of their gaze time looking at the URLs in the search results.

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New Accommodation website

Another major website I worked on over the summer was the new Accommodation website, which went live in October.

Screenshot of the Accommodation homepage

I think it is quite a distinctive and bright looking website. This is largely due to the excellent use of photographs.

Photo galleries

It was widely felt that the photographs used on the old accommodation webpages could have been improved. So there was a big focus on making good use of good photographs on the new website.

Screenshot of the Andrew Melville Hall webpage

A big feature of the new residence webpages is the gallery of photographs. We settled on using the GalleryView jQuery plugin for this. It is fairly flexible, with plenty of options to configure. So when I was asked to make changes to the functionality of the gallery, it was fairly straightforward to update it.

Managed properties

Much more challenging was the managed properties page. This hasn’t gone live yet. But behind the scenes it works, although it’s not the most elegant of solutions.

We were asked to create a page that will contain information about a large number of individual properties — 80 or so. There is not enough information about each property to justify giving each property its own page. But, each property needs to have its own gallery, which opens up in a lightbox.

There was scope to split them up into five categories, so I have given each category its own webpage. This leaves us with around 15 or 20 per page. But whether there are 80 or 20, this leaves us with the problem of giving each property its own unique gallery while remaining on the one webpage.

This was a considerable challenge to implement within TerminalFour Site Manager, at least the way our Media Library is set up. The solution, as I said, is not ideal. It is certainly not the most user-friendly for the content owners to update. But it is good once again to push the limits, and learn what can be achieved when you set your mind to it.

No rush

Despite the sometimes tricky requests, I found the people at Residential and Business Services good to work with. They had brought on board a web expert who was able to do a lot of the heavy lifting and had great ideas for the website.

But best of all, we were given plenty of advance warning to work on the website several months before it was due to go live. In stark contrast to some others, who sometimes expect us to magic up an amazing website at the last minute with no prior warning, we were able to finish the majority of the work on the Accommodation website three or four months before it was due to go live.

It certainly made a nice change to be able to stop working on a website for a number of months rather than desperately rushing around at the last minute.