Interface 2003

Web Design and Usability Guidelines: An Evidence-based Approach
Sanjay Koyani, (Communication Technologies Branch/National Cancer Institute),


Studies show that Web site usability is a significant problem. About 60 percent of people who use the Web are unable to find the information they are looking for even though it exists on the site. And, in cases where people have a negative experience with a Web site, 40 percent of them never come back to that site. One key problem contributing to the significant number of unusable Web sites may be the wide range of conflicting, opinion-based Web design guidelines that exist in the field.

To address this problem, the Communication Technologies Branch (CTB) of the National Cancer Institute’s Office of Communications is developing a comprehensive set of research-based Web design and usability guidelines to increase web design efficiency and effectiveness. By translating the latest research from a variety of cross-disciplinary sources into practical guidelines, CTB has been able to use the latest findings to implement effective Web design at the outset.

In early 2000, CTB published about 50 guidelines on design and usability on the Web site ( The guidelines cover a wide variety of issues related to Web site design and development: use of white space, font type and size, navigation, labeling and use of logos and other branding components used on Web sites. Each guideline also has a rating scale showing the strength of research evidence.

Throughout most of 2002, CTB has been fully engaged in a major research project to expand the guidelines. The branch has been working with experts in the usability and design field to develop an additional 200 new design guidelines through a detailed peer review process. The new guidelines will reach across many disciplines, including technical communication, usability, human factors and cognitive psychology. The presenters will explain the extensive process involved in developing these new guidelines.

Overall, the presentation will provide: 1) an overview of why research-based Web design guidelines are important to the field; 2) recent research findings in Web design and data presentation; 3) a discussion about the process used to create the guidelines; and 4) opportunities for participants to provide input.

Take me back to the main conference page.