Designing Educational Software, part 3

Principles of Web-based Software Design

There are principles of design for all sorts of things: landscapes, buildings, building interiors, as well as fine and commercial art, just to name a few. For good web design, the Webby Awards have been developed by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS). The Webby Awards have been awarded since 1996 based on the following criteria for selection: content, structure and navigation, visual design, functionality, interactivity, and overall experience. (More information about their definitions is located at Judging Criteria.)

Content Content is the information provided on the site. It is not just text, but music, sound, animation, or video — anything that communicates a site’s body of knowledge.
Structure and Navigation Structure and navigation refers to the framework of a site, the organization of content, the prioritization of information, and the method in which you move through the site.
Visual Design Visual design is the appearance of the site.
Functionality Functionality is the use of technology on the site. Good functionality means the site works well. It loads quickly, has live links, and any new technology used is functional and relevant for the intended audience. The site should work cross-platform and be browser independent.
Interactivity Interactivity is the way that a site allows you to do something. Good interactivity is more than a rollover or choosing what to click on next; it allows you, as a user, to give and receive.
Overall Experience Demonstrating that sites are frequently more — or less than the sum of their parts, the overall experience encompasses content, structure and navigation, visual design, functionality, and interactivity, but it also includes the intangibles that make one stay or leave.

These are the principles we followed to make our web-based programs engaging — a must in educational software, where the audience is largely captive. In order to assure our new design would be marketable, we used these principles and had our team pick examples of best usage from past Webby Award nominees and winners as the anchor point for a process of re-design. This process took us from imagining how our programs would be used, through imagining specific design features we wanted to incorporate, to mockups of how the program would look and act and the writing of technical specifications for the programmers.

BulbgraphOnOffHelp ELL students acquire vocabulary by using the glossary’s audio files. Definitions + pronunciation = oral and textual word recognition.

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Dr. Annelies Kamran is V.P. for Content and Product Development at WorldView Software, Inc.

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