Defensive Design for the Web: How To Improve Error Messages, Help, Forms, and Other Crisis Points
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The biggest challenge for web designers is the unthinkably huge number of possible ways to solve any given problem. We usually don’t think of this because we have our habits and traditions to fall back on, but there are literally billions of possible pixel combinations for each page we make.
There is a better way to manage this vast complexity than by making big decisions up front and hoping for the best. To make better sites — sites that are functional, beautiful, and “usable” — we have to break our design problems up into small independent chunks based on the real issues within our requirements. Christopher Alexander, who came up with this stuff, calls these chunks patterns.