How to make good sites.

Author:Shank, Patti
Position:Information Mapping Inc.'s web content work

Making Web Content Work, 2003, Information Mapping (800-463-6627,, $995 per person.

I'm an instructional technologist so I know that the technologies we use often create hassles for the people who use them. We need to do whatever is possible to make our sites more usable. As Steve Krug, in his great web usability book, Don't Make Me Think ( library, 2000), explains that usability is "making sure that something works well: that a person of average (or even below average) ability and experience can use the thing ... for its intended purpose without getting hopelessly frustrated." Krug concedes that even though usability is common sense, it's not usually obvious. Bottom line: We need to make instructional sites easier to use.

This instructor-led online course encourages contact with the instructors and other learners. (Warning! Opinion coming!) Since it seems that most online training courses these days are dreadfully dull self-paced courses with little or no ability to interact with others even when the interaction is critical to instruction, this is refreshing and provides many opportunities for reflection and sharing insights.

Each of the course's eight lessons is one week and culminates in an activity that requires the learner to work on a site or part of a site design or redesign. The activity is uploaded to the course so the instructor and other learners can view it and provide feedback.

This is a good and useful course with major plusses:

*Content is well chunked and easy to follow

*Lots of examples

*Printable summaries of all online lessons

*Assignments prompt you to work on a site you need to design or redesign

*Ability to see other students' work

*Instructor feedback is timely and helpful--in a word, fantastic

Minuses? In some ways, the course tries to cover too much. The issue of designing...

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