Design of Sites: Patterns for Creating Winning Websites / Edition 2

Design of Sites: Patterns for Creating Winning Websites / Edition 2

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Prentice Hall


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Design of Sites: Patterns for Creating Winning Websites / Edition 2

<>Praise for the second edition of The Design of Sites

"In my worldwide IBM marketing role, I have the benefit of working with some of the finest international interactive agencies and internal Web teams. As I read The Design of Sites, [I see] the insight from years of professional advice has been put to paper. Nowhere have I seen such a practical, effective, and easy-to-use book to solve and avoid Internet design issues. I keep a copy of the book handy to remind me of the things I forgot and to gain fresh perspectives. It never fails to deliver."
-John Cilio, marketing manager, IBM System x & z Storage Synergy

"The Design of Sites artfully brings forward the original intent of Christopher Alexander’s pattern language into the user experience design arena. It is a valuable and comprehensive reference."

-George Hackman, Jr., senior director of User Experience for User Interface Guidelines, Patterns and Standards, Oracle Corporation

"The Design of Sites is one of the best tools I have in my usability toolbox. [These] Web UI design patterns make it easy for me to show my clients how to get the most usability bang for their buck."

-Claudia Alden Case, usability consultant and interaction designer, Alden Case Enterprises, Inc.

"If only biology class had been like this. Lucid text, bulletproof content, and a comprehensive taxonomy that’s just as much a source of inspiration as it is a production tool. This is a really, really good book. If you build Web sites, read it."

-Marc Campbell, author of Web Design Garage

Praise for the first edition of The Design of Sites

"Stop reinventing the wheel every time you design a Web site! The Design of Sites helps you rethink your Web sites in terms of genres and patterns. Once you have identified the patterns and applied the best practices for those patterns as outlined in this book, you will reduce your design effort by 50 percent . . . at least!"

-Pawan R. Vora, vice president, Information Architecture, Seurat Company

"The content [in The Design of Sites] could make a novice into a seasoned professional over a weekend. Many companies pay a fortune for the information contained in the book’s primary chapters."

-John Cilio, marketing manager, IBM System x & z Storage Synergy

"This book has many handy checklists for what you should and should not do in creating a conventional Web site. Just following the authors’ suggestions would put your site in the top few percent for readability and usability."

-Jef Raskin, creator of the Macintosh computer and author of The Humane Interface

"Now that The Design of Sites has made its appearance, we won't have to put up with those poorly designed Web pages. These authors have captured patterns from successful Web designers, including their own experience in consulting and teaching, and have made this information accessible to all of us. The book is readable yet full of worthwhile information--a valuable addition to any Web designer’s bookshelf."

-Linda Rising, independent consultant and author of The Patterns Handbook, The Pattern Almanac 2000, and Design Patterns in Communications Software

"[The Design of Sites] bridges the gap from theory to practice and makes it possible for people in the Web-design space to use user-centered design principles in their work—without having to undertake extensive training."

-Maya Venkatraman, human interface engineer, Sun Microsystems

"The coverage [in The Design of Sites] is excellent--issues go beyond the traditional ‘design the best page’ focus and do a good job of showing the context. I haven’t seen any other book with the kind of breadth this has."

-Terry Winograd, professor of computer science, Stanford University, and editor of Bringing Design to Software

"With this book as a reference, you can benefit from what companies like Yahoo! have learned and apply it to your site, even if you don’t have a design and research team similarly sized and staffed."

From the foreword by Irene Au, director of User Experience, Google; former vice president of User Experience and Design, Yahoo!

The Design of Sites , Second Edition, is the definitive reference for the principles, patterns, methodologies, and best practices underlying exceptional Web design. If you are involved in the creation of dynamic Web sites, this book will give you all the necessary tools and techniques to create effortless end-user Web experiences, improve customer satisfaction, and achieve a balanced approach to Web design.

After a comprehensive tutorial covering the foundations of good Web site design, you will move on to discover the thirteen major Web design pattern groups. These patterns solve recurring design problems and help design teams avoid reinventing the wheel. Patterns range from creating a solid navigation framework and the all-important home page, to instilling trust and building credibility with your customers and improving site performance through better design.

The book features

  • Coverage of AJAX, the Mobile Web, and online communities
  • Seventeen new design patterns to add to the original ninety, including the new blog site type
  • More than twenty significantly updated patterns
  • 450 four-color screen shots and diagrams, including more than 150 new images
  • Key site elements, including site maps, style sheets, dynamic elements, and customer profiles
  • Clear, visual organization with color-coded sections for easy reference
  • A balanced approach to Web design that takes both customer and business needs into account

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780131345553
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Publication date: 01/01/2007
Edition description: Revised Edition
Pages: 1024
Product dimensions: 7.32(w) x 9.15(h) x 1.31(d)

Table of Contents

Foreword xxix

Preface xxxiii

Acknowledgments xli

Part I: Foundations of Web Site Design 1

Chapter 1: Customer-Centered Web Design: More Than a Good Idea 3

1.1 The Evolution of Web Design 3

1.2 The Importance of Customer-Centered Design 6

1.3 Our First Steps toward Unifying Design, Usability, and Marketing 8

1.4 Why We Prefer Customer-Centered Design 9

1.5 Nine Myths of Customer-Centered Design 12

1.6 Applying Customer-Centered Design 15

1.7 Take-away Ideas 16

Chapter 2: Making the Most of Web Design Patterns 19

2.1 What Are Patterns? 19

2.2 A Sample Pattern 20

2.3 How to Read a Pattern 23

2.4 How Much Do Patterns Change Over Time? 25

2.5 How to Use the Patterns 30

2.6 An Example of Using Patterns 31

2.7 Take-away Ideas 37

Chapter 3: Knowing Your Customers: Principles and Techniques 39

3.1 Principles for Knowing Your Customers 40

3.2 Techniques for Knowing Your Customers 50

3.3 Take-away Ideas 67

Chapter 4: Involving Customers with Iterative Design 69

4.1 The Iterative Design Process 69

4.2 Reasons to Use Iterative Design 71

4.3 Designing with Goals and Principles in Mind 73

4.4 Rapid Prototyping 80

4.5 Evaluating Your Web Site 90

4.6 Take-away Ideas 95

Chapter 5: Processes for Developing Customer-Centered Sites 97

5.1 Development Process Overview 98

5.2 The Discovery Phase 100

5.3 The Exploration Phase 105

5.4 The Refinement Phase 106

5.5 The Production Phase 108

5.6 The Implementation Phase 110

5.7 The Launch Phase 113

5.8 The Maintenance Phase 113

5.9 Take-away Ideas 115

Part II: Patterns 117

Pattern Group A: Site Genres 119

A1: Personal E-Commerce 120

A2: News Mosaics 128

A3: Community Conference 136

A4: Self-Service Government 148

A5: Nonprofits as Networks of Help 154

A6: Grassroots Information Sites 161

A7: Valuable Company Sites 167

A8: Educational Forums 174

A9: Stimulating Arts and Entertainment 182

A10: Web Apps That Work 187

A11: Enabling Intranets 195

A12: blogs 201

Pattern Group B: Creating a Navigation Framework 215

B1: Multiple Ways to Navigate 216

B2: Browsable Content 221

B3: Hierarchical Organization 226

B4: Task-Based Organization 231

B5: Alphabetical Organization 235

B6: Chronological Organization 238

B7: Popularity-Based Organization 241

B8: Category Pages 247

B9: Site Accessibility 251

Pattern Group C: Creating a Powerful Homepage 267

C1: Homepage Portal 268

C2: Up-Front Value Proposition 277

Pattern Group D: Writing and Managing Content 283

D1: Page Templates 284

D2: Content Modules 291

D3: Headlines and Blurbs 297

D4: Personalized Content 303

D5: Message Boards 314

D6: Writing for Search Engines 324

D7: Inverted-Pyramid Writing Style 332

D8: Printable Pages 339

D9: Distinctive HTML Titles 343

D10: Internationalized and Localized Content 349

D11: Style Sheets 356

Pattern Group E: Building Trust and Credibility 365

E1: Site Branding 366

E2: E-Mail Subscriptions 372

E3: Fair Information Practices 378

E4: Privacy Policy 384

E5: About Us 391

E6: Secure Connections 398

E7: E-Mail Notifications 402

E8: Privacy Preferences 410

E9: Preventing Phishing Scams 418

Pattern Group F: Basic E-Commerce 431

F1: Quick-Flow Checkout 432

F2: Clean Product Details 439

F3: Shopping Cart 449

F4: Quick Address Selection 458

F5: Quick Shipping Method Selection 464

F6: Payment Method 469

F7: Order Summary 475

F8: Order Confirmation and Thank-You 480

F9: Easy Returns 485

Pattern Group G: Advanced E-Commerce 491

G1: Featured Products 492

G2: Cross-Selling and Up-Selling 500

G3: Personalized Recommendations 510

G4: Recommendation Community 518

G5: Multiple Destinations 526

G6: Gift Giving 531

G7: Order Tracking and History 537

Pattern Group H: Helping Customers Complete Tasks 545

H1: Process Funnel 546

H2: Sign-in/New Account 552

H3: Guest Account 559

H4: Account Management 564

H5: Persistent Customer Sessions 570

H6: Floating Windows 576

H7: Frequently Asked Questions 581

H8: Context-Sensitive Help 587

H9: Direct Manipulation 591

H10: Clear Forms 600

H11: Predictive Input 609

H12: Drill-down Options 615

H13: Progress Bar 622

Pattern Group I: Designing Effective Page Layouts 631

I1: Grid Layout 632

I2: Above the Fold 637

I3: Clear First Reads 641

I4: Expanding Screen Width 646

I5: Fixed Screen Width 652

I6: Consistent Sidebars of Related Content 657

Pattern Group J: Making Site Search Fast and Relevant 661

J1: Search Action Module 662

J2: Straightforward Search Forms 666

J3: Organized Search Results 669

Pattern Group K: Making Navigation Easy 677

K1: Unified Browsing Hierarchy 678

K2: Navigation Bar 682

K3: Tab Rows 686

K4: Action Buttons 691

K5: High-Visibility Action Buttons 695

K6: Location Bread Crumbs 698

K7: Embedded Links 701

K8: External Links 705

K9: Descriptive, Longer Link Names 709

K10: Obvious Links 714

K11: Familiar Language 719

K12: Preventing Errors 723

K13: Meaningful Error Messages 727

K14: Page Not Found 731

K15: Permalinks 734

K16: Jump Menus 744

K17: Site Map 752

Pattern Group L: Speeding Up Your Site 759

L1: Low Number of Files 760

L2: Fast-Loading Images 764

L3: Separate Tables 772

L4: HTML Power 775

L5: Reusable Images 779

L6: Fast-Loading Content 782

Pattern Group M: The Mobile Web 793

M1: Mobile Screen Sizing 794

M2: Mobile Input Controls 805

M3: Location-Based Services 813

Part III: Appendixes 823

Appendix A: Running Usability Evaluations 825

Appendix B: Sample Web Site Evaluation Plan 841

Appendix C: Sample Consent Form 845

Appendix D: Sample Observer Form 847

Appendix E: Online Research 849

Glossary 867

Resources 897

Credits 935

About the Authors 941

Index 943


Four years ago, we began this book with a story of a man who discovers a talking dog. When asked what the dog said, the man replied, “Who cares? It’s a talking dog!” For several years after its inception in the early 1990s, the Web was the talking dog, fascinating in its very existence. Then businesspeople discovered that they could sell things using the Web, without paying the huge production and distribution fees that print and television advertising required. Web sites became commercial ventures almost overnight, and a period of rapid evolution began for this new medium. As the Web evolved, the problems faced by its developers were the same ones faced by any industry as it matures: people started to care more about factors like value, convenience, and ease of use than about the novelty of the technology itself. A new term, customer-centered design, was coined in an attempt to deal with this change in priorities.

For Douglas van Duyne, James Landay, and Jason Hong, customer-centered design wasn’t always a hot topic for e-business. Eight years ago, when we were an entrepreneur with a software design background, a Berkeley computer science professor, and a doctoral graduate student, we had a vision to provide much-needed customer insights to businesses developing for the new medium of the Web. Although the vision eventually resulted in a thriving Web development business and this book, we had many questions to answer along the way. As part of our research into why most Web sites failed to meet customer expectations, we became very interested in how typical design agencies went about their work, and why companies hired outside Web site design firms instead of creating sites themselves.

To help answer these questions, we sent researchers to interview Web designers and their clients. We learned that companies hired design agencies on the basis of their previous work building recognizable brands. At the time, Web designers distinguished themselves through awards and accolades, not by measured success with real customers. This pattern began to make sense only when we learned that most Web designers got into the business after working in print, film, or television, all noninteractive media. At that time, few tools existed to help designers understand the Web customer experience. In fact, when we studied a new client’s site, we could see that the business was suffering, but now we knew it was because of the original designer’s blindness to the distinctions of interaction design, along with a tradition that often put form over function.

This scenario became clear in our daily work. We were brought in to assess tough site design problems and fix them. We saw client after client with site designs that were failing, even though all the essentials appeared to be in place. During one such project, when we were testing a client’s large-scale e-commerce site, we asked typical site visitors to locate a specific product. Our client had designed the site internally and their designers knew how to find everything, so they were confident that customers could do the same. To the test subjects, however, the product descriptions were cryptic, the navigation controls were unclear, and trying to find a single product resulted in pages and pages of choices. Upon completion of the test, almost all the participants reported success, but in actuality, only a scant few had found the correct product. A site design that was clear to its designers was so confusing to the customers that they did not even know they had failed. As a result of our efforts, the client was able to see that the site had been designed in a vacuum. Only through iterative design and rigorous testing were we able to create a site that was as usable as it was attractive.

Well, a funny thing has happened since those early years. Customer-centered design has risen from obscurity to the forefront of Web site development. During that time, we have used the research tools and methodologies that we developed to iteratively design sites for some of the best-known and best-managed companies in the world. Each in our own way, we’ve followed our original vision. Douglas K. van Duyne, entrepreneur and software designer, is a founder and principal of Naviscent, a Web research and design firm. James A. Landay is a professor of computer science at the University of Washington and previously served as the director of Intel Research Seattle, which focuses on the new world of ubiquitous computing. Jason I. Hong is a computer science professor at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute of Carnegie Mellon University.

In these roles we have personally met with hundreds of executives to talk about their business models, market strategies, and, of course, Web site development plans. We have found that as Web businesses have matured, organizations have realized the need to focus on improving the customer experience. In fact, we have discovered that the more senior the executive we speak with is, the clearer the mandate for a customer-centered design approach becomes.

This focus on customer-centered design is not limited to our experience. Recently e-business analysts have started evaluating design firms less on their brand design work, concentrating more on the efficacy of their Web customer experience. However, despite the new standards, reviews of top design firms have shown surprising results. Although many of the biggest Web agencies promise to include customer testing as part of their site design services, analysis has concluded their designs do not consistently provide a better customer experience. 1 Much progress is still needed.

Today companies seem to have an almost unquenchable thirst for customer-centered design knowledge, expertise, methodologies, and work practices. The purpose of this book is to help satisfy some of that need, drawing on our years of experience at Naviscent, UC Berkeley, the University of Washington, and Carnegie Mellon, and working on Web research and design projects for more than three hundred clients. We hope that, by keeping the book current with the state of customer-centered Web design as it exists today, we can do our part to ensure that the evolution of the medium continues unabated.

New in the Second Edition

After publication of the first edition, we met and talked with many readers and instructors about their use of the book. A couple of consistent threads of conversation led us to embark on this second edition. One thing people appreciated in the first edition was the breadth of topics in one place. But, it seemed, we managed to miss a couple of important patterns here and there. Readers helped us by suggesting patterns we didn’t include in the first edition, like PROGRESS BAR (H13).

Another important factor that influenced the content of this new edition was the development of two important new Web technologies: AJAX-based interfaces and Mobile Web. With AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript And XML), interaction techniques previously available only in desktop applications, such as direct manipulation, could now be used to design enhanced Web sites and applications, broadening designer choices. As mobile phone usage has continued to climb, phone browser technology has improved. The Mobile Web creates new opportunities for businesses, and new design challenges. Several new patterns in this edition cover the Mobile Web space.

In addition to the many new patterns in this edition, we’ve updated other patterns to reflect these technology changes, as well as to provide additional insights that we’ve learned along the way. In fact, more than one-third of the content of this second edition of the book is either new or updated.

Why Use This Book?

You’re probably wondering how this book is any different from the numerous other Web design books out there. This unique book is not about programming or any specific technology. Nor is it a quick fix for all of the problems you and your team will face in developing a Web site. No single book can do that. What this book does offer are principles, processes, and patterns to help you develop successful customer-centered Web sites. With this customer-centered focus, your Web site can be relevant, self-explanatory, and easy to use.

Creating a Web site is easy. Creating a successful Web site that provides a winning experience for your target audience is another story, and that’s what this book is about. And when you’re finished reading it, it will be a valuable reference tool to keep on your desk. You can turn to it again and again as you design, redesign, and evaluate sites.

Your target customers 2 will differ. Depending on your business, they might be members in a club, students of a university, concerned citizens, or paying shoppers. The goals of each of these audiences will also vary, but the challenge for you is the same: creating an interactive interface that provides tangible value to the people who go to your site.

The patterns in this book provide you and your team with a common language to articulate an infinite variety of Web designs. We developed the language because we saw people solving the same design problems over and over at great time and expense. The patterns examine solutions to these problems. We present the best practices from our consulting experience, our research experience, and our Web development experience—gathered in one place. In The Design of Sites, we give you the tools to understand your customers better, help you design sites that your customers will find effective and easy to use, shorten your development schedules, and reduce maintenance costs.

If you do not have “customers,” think of target audiences. One focus of the book is the design of e-commerce Web sites; however, you can successfully apply the majority of the content to make any Web site better.

Who Should Read This Book?

This book is written for anyone involved in the design and implementation of a Web site. Its focus is tilted more toward Web design professionals, such as interaction designers, usability engineers, information architects, and visual designers. But this book is also written to be a resource for anyone on a Web development team, from business executives to advertising managers to software developers to content editors. The best possible team will understand and buy into the customer-centered design philosophy because every person on the team influences how the Web site is shaped and formed.

Web Design Professionals

Start with Chapters 1 and 2 to understand the motivation for customer-centered design and the patterns approach to Web design. If you already have a strong background in the principles (Chapters 3 and 4) and processes (Chapter 5) of customer-centered design, you can skim these chapters and move quickly to the patterns themselves (Part II of the book). If you have less experience, the three chapters on customer-centered design and development (3 through 5) should prove useful for whatever kind of Web site you’re developing.

Business Managers

Read Chapters 1 through 5 to understand the business consequences of ignoring customer-centered design, as well as to learn the principles and processes required to build a customer-centered site. E-commerce sites pose the greatest risk of project failure. These chapters describe techniques that you can use to reduce this risk, decrease feature creep, and minimize implementation and maintenance costs. Customer-centered design will also help you shorten development schedules and increase overall customer satisfaction—and consequently client satisfaction too.

Business Clients

If you are the client who funds development of a Web site, read the first five chapters. Because you’re paying, you will be especially interested in why there is such an urgent need for a strong customer focus, and in what steps design teams can take to ensure that your customers’ needs are met. You will see why these steps will actually reduce your costs and create happier, more loyal customers.

Benefits of Using The Design of Sites

We know that improving your customers’ Web experience will take more than reading this book. The principles, processes, and patterns in this book are not a magic solution to your problems. However, by putting them into practice in the design and evaluation of your Web sites, you will improve the overall customer experience. Success requires an extreme focus on customer needs, but one that will pay off in the long run. Your work will result in improved customer satisfaction, a balanced approach to Web design, and incremental improvement of design practices, as described in the sections that follow.

Improved Customer Satisfaction

By focusing on your customers throughout the development process, you will discover their needs, design Web sites for those needs, and evaluate your designs to ensure that those needs are met. You will test your site iteratively with representative customers to make certain that you work out the majority of problems before they cause serious problems and before they become expensive to fix. Customer-centered design concentrates on making sure that you’re building the right features on your Web site, and that you’re building those features right!

Balanced Approach to Web Design

Too many books read like ancient scripture, as in, “Thou shalt do this” and “Thou shalt not do that.” Such approaches are too dogmatic for Web design, which needs to be flexible and adaptable to a wide range of situations. The Web has led to more customer diversity, as well as a wider range of customer goals and tasks than was common in the past. We acknowledge, however, that customer needs must also be balanced with your business goals, usability requirements, aesthetics, and technological constraints.

That’s why we have aimed for general principles, processes, and patterns that can be applied to many Web site genres. We have integrated the three in one book because each is part of a comprehensive solution: The patterns provide a language for building Web sites; the principles and processes provide instructions for how to use the language.

Incremental Improvement of Design Practices

It is unlikely that anyone has time to read and put into practice an entire book about designing customer-centered Web sites in a short period of time. So we have divided this book into many small, digestible parts. The first five chapters describe the key ideas behind customer-centered design. The rest of the book is devoted to Web design patterns that can be applied to practically any Web site. You can skip around, mix and match, skim, and sample what you need. This is not a book that you must read sequentially from cover to cover.

The ideas in this book do not require wholesale adoption. You can take small parts at a time and try them out to see what works for you. In fact, we encourage many small steps instead of a few big leaps because it takes time to become practiced in the many ideas presented here. For example, you could improve your design practices by using the design patterns that make up the bulk of this book. Or you could use just some of the techniques described in the first part of the book, such as observing some representative customers using your site. Though often a humbling process, making such observations will help ground your intuitions of the way your customers think, and in the long run improve the overall design of your site.

Conventions Used in This Book

The following typographic conventions are used in this book:

  • Web pages and Web sites that we reference are set in blue text.
  • Pattern names are identified as follows: PATTERN NAME (A2). Where the letter in parentheses represents the pattern group and the number is the pattern number. In this example, A2 means the second pattern in pattern group A. Each use of a pattern in the text is also accompanied by a color-coded, circular icon in the margin. The color indicates the pattern group. These icons are also shown on each page of the respective pattern.
  • Chapter and pattern group names are also represented in the book by color-coded icons. The first five chapters are represented by square icons with the chapter number inside the square, and the pattern groups are represented by diamond-shaped icons with the group letter inside the diamond. Throughout the book, such icons are shown in the margin of the text wherever a specific chapter or pattern group is mentioned.
  • Code examples are set in constant-width type.
  • HTML tags and attributes are enclosed in angle brackets (for example, <meta>).


We use many screen shots of Web sites in this book to illustrate examples of good and not so good design. We offer kudos to the Web teams and companies that made the good designs. However, the examples of not so good design should not be construed as attacks on the Web sites in question or on the companies responsible for those sites. Wrestling the technological, economic, and organizational beasts can be quite an endeavor, and change can be slow, even in Internet time. Besides, we are all still learning. We are all in this together.

We Would Like to Hear from You

Please send us your comments, questions, and any corrections. Although we cannot update your copy, we will organize your feedback at

We are especially interested in finding out how well particular patterns worked for you and in hearing your suggestions for improving them. We plan to share new patterns that you have discovered with other readers of the book!

You can reach us at,, and, or through our publisher at


1. From H. Manning, The Forrester Wave™: Web Design Agencies Q3, 2005 (Forrester Research, 2005) (,7211,36045,00.html).
2. We use the term customers to mean any person who will use the Web site that you’re designing. We use the term clients to mean the people for whom you’re doing the work, the people providing the funding.

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