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Lesson 4Evaluating the signs and metaphors of a Web site
Objective Describe the characteristics of effective signs and metaphors.

Evaluating the Signs and Metaphors of a Web Site

Why use signs and metaphors?

Imagine that you land in an airport in which you have never been before. Various signs will indicate where to claim your luggage, where to go through customs if you need to do that, where the restrooms are located, where you may rent a car (or take a shuttle or a taxi) to go into town, and so on. These signs may even be in several languages and include visual icons that can be interpreted by people who do not speak the languages in which they are written. If well designed and appropriately located, these signs will allow you to find your way through the airport efficiently, without problems and confusion.
Like the signs in an airport, the signs and metaphors in a Web site are visual and conceptual tools that must be well thought out so that users can understand them easily and efficiently.

Characteristics and function of signs and metaphors

The signs and metaphors of a Web site greatly influence the user's perception of the site and of the organization it represents. Effective signs and metaphors create an impression of the organization that is consistent with its objectives and purposes. They also help in making the site easy to use. Successful signs and metaphors for one purpose may be unsuccessful for another because of their context and their specific function within that context. However, regardless of the intended purposes of a site, effective signs and metaphors are associated with the following characteristics and outcomes:
  1. They encourage use of the site.
  2. They create a favorable reaction among the targeted audiences.
  3. They are interpreted by the targeted audiences in ways that are consistent with what the designers intended.
  4. They help establish a level of trust and confidence between the user and the business or organization.
  5. They meet HCI standards, such as readability, color, size, etc.
  6. They reflect the business objectives with respect to globalization and demographics.
  7. They support and enhance the information architecture of the site.

The future of signs and metaphors

The field of semiotics, which focuses on the creation of shared meaning among all stakeholders (i.e users, designers), will play an increasingly important role in the development of signs and metaphors. Frameworks for ensuring that the interpretation of the signs and metaphors is consistent across all groups will be developed further, to help visual and graphic designers create more effective signs and metaphors.
In the next lesson you will learn how to evaluate the functionality of a Web site.

Evaluating Website - Quiz

Click the Quiz link below to check your knowledge of how to evaluate the inormation architecture and the signs and metaphors of a site.
Evaluating Website - Quiz