Reader as User: Applying Interface Design Techniques to the Web

by Karen Chauss
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


The World Wide Web is not just an electronic display of text and information. To navigate the WWW, readers need to make decisions about how to pursue and translate their decisions into physical actions. The Web is an interface.

Because the WWW shares common ground with both papertext writing and with software interfaces, theories and research from interface design, human-computer interaction, and cognitive science can be used to improve web page interfaces and make the design and presentation of information more effective and usable for the reader.

One important similarity between writing and interface design is that both emphasize the need for a thorough audience analysis to determine the tasks, goals, and needs of the reader or user. Writers can apply their knowledge of techniques used to focus their writing on the needs of the user, such as reader analysis and reader-response criticisms, to the interface of the WWW document.

This web was peer-reviewed by Wayne Butler, Bill Hart-Davidson and Lee Honeycutt of the Kairos  Editorial Board.

Contact Karen McGrane Chauss
About the Author
Karen McGrane Chauss is a doctoral student in the Department of Language, Literature and Communication at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. While at RPI, she has assisted in the teaching of Communication Theory and worked as graphics consultant for Writing to the World-Wide Web, been a part of the User Documentation Team for the Rensselaer Design Conference Room, and provides computer support to department faculty.

KAIROS Enter the Archived Version of this Hypertext
Kairos: A Journal for Teachers of Writing in Webbed Environments.
Vol. 1 No. 2 Summer 1996