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5:9 Attend to Homepage Panel Width

Relative Importance:

Relative Importance rating of 2 out of 5

Strength of Evidence:

Strength of Evidence rating of 3 out of 5

Document Type: Guideline


Topic:

Page Structure - Homepage


Guideline:

Ensure that homepage panels are of a width that will cause them to be recognized as panels.


Comments:

The width of panels seems to be critical for helping users understand the overall layout of a Web site. In one study, users rarely selected the information in the left panel because they did not understand that it was intended to be a left panel. In a subsequent study, the panel was made narrower, which was more consistent with other left panels experienced by users. The newly designed left panel was used more.


Sources:

  • Evans, M. (1998). Web Design: An Empiricist’s Guide. Unpublished master’s thesis. Seattle: University of Washington. Retrieved May 2003, from http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/webmastr/webdesgn.pdf.
  • Farkas, D.K. & Farkas, J.B. (2000). Guidelines for designing web navigation. Technical Communication, 47(3), 341-358.
  • Nall, J., Koyani, S.J., & Lafond, C. (2001, January). Lessons learned while usability testing the CancerNet Web site. National Cancer Institute, Communication Technologies Branch Technical Report.

Good Example:

The width of these panels (wide enough to clearly present links and navigation information, but narrow enough so that they do not dominate the page) allow the user to recognize them as navigation and content panels. 05_09_good_example