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If a website is more than just an online brochure ”that is, if it supports tasks requiring significant interaction and manipulation ”one can ask how well it supports those tasks. Is completing a task easy and pleasant, allowing users to think mainly about their own goals and not much about operating the website? Or is getting anything done agonizing and frustrating, with the website constantly tripping users up and making them think about how to operate it or work around its deficiencies?
A website's support ”or lack thereof ”for its intended tasks depends on more than just its surface details. Issues such as graphic design, layout, labeling, error messages, navigation, and form fields are of course important aspects of Web design, but they are not the whole story. In fact, as I said in Chapter 1, surface details aren't even most of the story.
In this chapter, I examine bloopers that hurt a site's business logic and task flow, hindering users in accomplishing their tasks. These issues fall somewhere between the content issues covered in Chapter 1 and the surface-level issues covered in subsequent chapters.
Task-support bloopers are the most difficult ones to correct. They aren't simply problems in the design of the front end, that is, the website itself. They are often caused by poorly designed back ends ”services and databases on which the website depends ”or by faulty interaction and communication between the back end and the front end. Because in large organizations, the front and back ends of websites are developed by separate teams , task-support bloopers cross organizational boundaries. Therefore, no single development team owns them: Preventing and fixing them is a shared responsibility of multiple organizations.
Poor support for task flow in a website often is the result of combinations of smaller problems. To provide the proper perspective, this chapter first presents very specific task-fit bloopers then finishes with more general bloopers of poor task flow that arise from combinations of more specific bloopers.
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