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Web Techniques Gives Practical Advice on User Registration Systems

WebTechniques magazine continues to publish highly relevant articles on user interface design. The latest is an article by Janice Crotty Fraser, an ex-Netscape employee who now works for Critical Path. In it, she says, "My task was to redesign... {the Netscape} registration system; the goal was a short, consistent, usable interface within three weeks. But because the changes that I had specified had a huge impact on the system engineering and our marketing partners, it took more than six months of battles to get the new system slated for implementation."

Although a discussion of the incredible inertia within Netscape that the article hints at would be interesting in itself, Fraser never revisits it. Instead, she discusses practical techniques like storyboarding the existing registration process (instead of merely flowcharting it), eliminating site-wide navigation from the registration pages, and using visual groupings to make the forms easier for users to understand at a glance.

We built an online registration system for AAHArefs.org ourselves in 1999. So, we know how hard it is to build in ease-of-use for all types of potential users. This article covers many of the stumbling blocks that we solved by trial and error.

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