Product: Early design on the web

Design examples from the early days of the web: e-commerce, HTML editing, search research, and more.

Engagements: At Interaction Design, we've worked  on web applications since their beginning in the 1990s.

An early HTML editor (1998): Radnet was a startup creating web-based groupware. We designed an HTML editor that included many features not then in other editors, like selecting columns (not an actual HTML concept) and specifying Web-safe colors. UX design, collaboration with development, usability testing and a focus group helped develop these features. The illustration at the top of the page shows that we created an object for columns, which was not part of HTML. The color picker was also unique, because it included browser-safe colors, an important item at that time.

E-commerce order form (1996): Open Market was one of the first companies to provide an e-commerce platform, and it was Interaction Design's first web project. An Open Market employee had an idea that became one of the first uses of the familiar catalog order form online. We helped refine the design and run a usaiblity study, using a pencil-and-paper sketch.

A sketch and the web page for the order form

We started with a sketch of the order form, and wound up with the page on the right.
It doesn't look like much, but that was the state of the art in 1996.

Search engine strategy (1999): We ran a usability study for to learn about search strategy. The study resulted in improved usability with better search tips and explanations.

A search result, showing the search string more clearly and explaining icons

We displayed the search string more clearly and explained site-specific icons

We uncovered interesting search strategies, for example a man who looked at the first page of results in one search engine, then moved on to the next one in his bookmark list, and so on until he found what he wanted.

Networked printer management (1997): We did design and usability testing for one of the first networked printer systems. It allowed remote reporting and monitoring and used a clear visual language so people could check status while walking by. The project team included a visual designer and a writer, who created an index (like the site maps that came later).

Icons displaying a consistent visual language

We developed icons with a consistent visual language

One of the usability study participants had a shaky hand, and never held the mouse still. This demonstrated early on that, while ToolTips are useful, we cannot depend on people seeing them. A shaky hand cannot hold the mouse still enough for them to appear.

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