When speaking of websites, the term "usability" describes, among other things, how easy the website is to use. Is the navigation confusing? How quickly can you find a particular item of information? Is the visual design distracting? These questions describe the usability of a website. Jakob Nielsen has some controversial ideas on the topic, but he gives a good definition of usability.
The appearance of r-l-w.net will change from time to time. The author enjoys developing new designs and he believes such changes help keep the r-l-w.net experience fresh for readers. Whenever a new design is developed, usability will be addressed in a number of ways. Some of the aspects addressed overlap the accessibility principles employed at r-l-w.net
All new designs will allow the way the web page is displayed to take the best advantage of the size of the browser window it is displayed in while maintaining important aspects of textual content. This kind of design is referred to as 'elastic design' because it can shrink and stretch, yet still assure the text adheres to certain readability guidelines even if the reader uses their browser to change the font size.
All new designs will be laid out in a logical, easy to figure out manner which will allow readers to find what they are looking for and enjoy the primary content without having to spend a great deal of time learning how to use the website. Various techniques such as 'task assessment' and 'personas' will be used. Task assessment refers to analyzing how easy it is to accomplish a specific task on the site and personas refers to a conceptual tool that involves creating an artificial personality and roll-playing that personality using the website.
All new designs will be aesthetically pleasing without being too distracting from the primary purpose of the website. Of course, this is a personal website so the aesthetic metrics applied may not agree with those of every reader, but they will not make the website unreadable even if the design may not be as visually pleasing to some as it is to others.
All new designs will be semantically sound to a logical degree. The term 'semantics' refers to the idea that things have inherent meaning that can aid in communication. In web development semantics can be seen in such specific examples as using <h1> tags to represent primary headers. Using that tag not only will make the text inside it large and bold, but indicates the text is an information section header instead of just text that should be large and bold. This use of semantics allows the code of the web page itself to communicate its contents more clearly.
Browser compatibility can be a tricky and time-consuming issue for any web developer who is concerned in the least about it. The author of r-l-w.net is concerned about browser compatibility and he does make efforts to assure that the website will display equivalently, if not exactly the same, in all mainstream modern browsers.
The phrase 'browser compatibility' is, however, actually a misnomer and indicates a backwards approach that perpetuates all the problems commonly described as browser compatibility issues. The idea that a website should be designed so that it looks good in a certain browser is counterproductive to the advancement of web technology. Rather, websites should be designed to comply with web-standards as outlined by the World Wide Web Consortium.
The standards compliance approach is made difficult by the fact that the most popular browser in use today does a poor job of complying with the standards itself. That is, a website that is fully standards compliant may not display the way the standards say it should when viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer. In addition to standards compliance defects, no browser is perfect. Each one has bugs which prevent it from operating correctly under some circumstances.
All new designs will be developed using the standards compliance approach and will be implemented with valid code. Standards compliance and code validity are closely related, but can be subtly different. The author of r-l-w.net will strive to attain both and in most designs will include links to verify code validation.
Display irregularities discovered by readers are most likely unknown to the author who asks those discovering them to notify him so that they can be addressed. Some irregularities may, after evaluation, be allowed to remain in cases where a standards compliant, valid fix is not available. In such cases, difficulties arising from the irregularity should be referred to the maker of the browser displaying the irregularity.