This afternoon at the Web Content 2008 conference, Ken Walters’ PowerPoint for his presentation, Design is Good Content, was refreshingly elegant. Loved the font. He’s obviously a designer and a good one. (although I wanted to edit his and the rest of the world’s English for singular/plural compatibility.) Lots of examples of good and bad sites, and then great summary points: “Good design might never be noticed. Bad design is hard to miss.” I couldn’t agree more. According to Ken, you don’t want to create a pausing point. Ken mentioned a book called “Don’t Make Me Think.” They aren’t necessarily big decisions, but you don’t want a site forcing users to think. You want them to be able just to flow through the site. “An interface that confuses a user can make them feel stupid and in the wrong. Users don’t come back to sites that they don’t understand.” In user observations, Ken said users assume it’s their fault. “I must have messed up.” “A site should be like a good friend. Would you let a friend continue to make mistakes or would you try to help them through their task?” Ken emphasized design being a scientific process, and if you treat it as a scientific process you can get measurable results. Here are the design tools he outlined: creative briefs, wireframes, user testing and focus groups, personas, best practices and style guides. Most are self explanatory. Wireframes are page layouts that help you look at usability and flow before adding (and being distracted by) color and branding. Personas can be useful when you don’t have time for user testing and focus groups. They are detailed descriptions of the users who are going to be visiting your site. An audience member pointed out that they’re useful in helping site owners recognize that there’s a difference between their interests and their users’ interests. They need to ask what solves their personas’ problems. People always want to create sites for themselves rather than for their users. Creating personas helps them visual their users and imagine and consider their needs.