Cancer Institute creates handy Web usability guidelines

Cancer Institute creates handy Web usability guidelines

BY TONY LEE ORR | GCN STAFF

Agencies looking for tips to spiff up their Web sites can call on the National Cancer Institute for help.

The institute's Web development site, at usability.cancer.gov, will go live this month, said Janice R. Nall, a team leader in the Web Design and Usability Branch of the institute's Office of Communications.

The advice, which covers everything from basic usability facts and definitions to guidelines and checklists, came from studies and the institute's experiences as it looked at making its own Web pages more user-friendly, Nall said.

Sinking or sunk

'Our navigation was just awful,' Nall said last month at the FedWeb2001 conference in Bethesda, Md. When work began to make it easier to wade through the institute's Web pages, NCI's Web team hadn't really heard about usability, she said.

Then there were data problems. In the beginning, the committee working on the redesign suffered a data drought. Valid user data was scarce, Nall said.

To remedy this, the committee consulted with usability experts and conducted research.
The resulting flood of data left the group awash in more than 500 guidelines for Web site development.

'The data comes out fast and furious, but the question is, how do you translate it?' Nall said of the struggles to design a welcoming site.

The group pared the list of 500 suggestions to 65 tips on usability that are likely to help agencies the most.

The site also contains links to other resources, lists local meetings on Web site usability and offers newsletters from experts in Web design and usability, Nall said.

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