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1

Only experts use help

In usability tests Jensen Harris has observed that help in Microsoft Office is mostly used by experts and enthusiasts. While novices and intermediates click around and experiment, experts try to reason thing out and look them up in help.

Jensen suggests that reasons for the varied usage of help include:
- Only experts know the "magic" words to bring up what they're looking for
- Help doesn't help you become familiar with a piece of software - it's designed to troubleshoot, not to teach.
- The process of experimenting with the product is totally removed from opening and reading articles in the help window
- Experts use more of the powerful and involved features, and thus benefit from the help system more.

Links:

  • Help Is For Experts

Henrik Olsen - December 17, 2005

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See also: Help (2)  Research (88) 


 

2

Best bets - hand-crafted search results

Much can be done to improve the quality of search results. But according to James Robertson, no amount of tweaking search engines will ensure that the most relevant results always appear at the beginning of the list. This is where "best bets" come in.

Best bets are a hand-created list of key resources for common queries, presented prominently at the beginning of the search results. By analyzing search statistics, we can ensure that the most useful pages are listed right at the top of popular searches.

Links:

  • Search engine 'best bets'

Henrik Olsen - December 06, 2005

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See also: Tips and guidelines (63)  Search (21) 


 

3

Designing pages listing links to content

According to Jared Spool, gallery pages - pages listing links to content pages - are the hardest working pages a web site. They separate those users who find the content they are looking for from the users who don't.

Studies by UIE show that when gallery pages don't contain the information that users will need to make their choice, they have to resort to "pogosticking" - jumping back and forth between the gallery and the content pages hoping they'll eventually hit the content they desire.

UIE also noticed that users expect the most important items to always be listed first in the gallery. If the first few items aren't of interest, they often assume the rest will be even less interesting.

Links:

  • Galleries: The Hardest Working Page on Your Site

Henrik Olsen - December 01, 2005

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See also: Navigation (44)  Web page design (23)  Sections (5)  Persuasive design (12)  Research (88) 


 

4

Online journal on usability studies

The Journal of Usability Studies (JUS) is a peer-reviewed, international, online publication dedicated to promoting and enhancing the practice, research, and education of usability engineering.

The journal aims to provide usability practitioners and researchers with a forum to share:
- Empirical findings and case studies
- Emerging methods and tools
- Reports of good practices in usability engineering
- Approaches and case studies in usability education and training
- Opinions and experiences regarding the practice and education of usability engineering

Links:

  • Journal of Usability Studies

Henrik Olsen - November 23, 2005 - via Usernomics

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See also: Research (88)  Online magazines (3) 


 

5

Setting goals and measuring success for web sites

With this free e-book by Steve Jackson, editor of Conversion Chronicles, you can learn the basics of how to set up measurable goals for web site conversion, how to reach your goals thorough persuasive design and how to measure success with web site statistic tools.

You have to sign up for their newsletter to get the e-book (they are taking their own medicine and use the book to boost their newsletter conversion and prospect acquisition).

Links:

  • The e-book Learn befor you spend

Henrik Olsen - November 22, 2005

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See also: Books (32)  Persuasive design (12)  Web log analysis (7)  Online books (5) 


 

6

Usability is more important that aesthetics in the long run

The October 2005 newsletter from HFI is a discussion of how beauty can influence users' overall impression of a product and how to measure the product-emotion relationship.

The newsletter mentions a study by M. Hassenzahl where a MP3 application was evaluated with a variety of different visual designs. They study showed that:
- When participants only looked at the MP3 player, the overall rating of the product was based on its perceived beauty and anticipated usability
- When participants were allowed to use the player, the overall rating of the product was more influenced by participants' experience of using the product

The study suggests that the emotional aspects of a design are important in attracting customers in the first place. However, when the product is judged through usage over time, usability is what matters most.

Links:

  • Is Beauty the new usability attribute?

Henrik Olsen - November 16, 2005

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See also: Usability testing (29)  Visual design (13)  Research (88) 


 

7

Demographics is not critical when recruiting study participants

When recruiting participants for usability testing, field research and the like, candidates experience and behaviour is more important than demographics.

According to Jared Spool, studies of user experience professionals have shown that successful teams have learnt that candidates' previous experience and how they will behave in the study is more important than where they live, how old they are, and how much they earn. You don't need to have someone who is in your target audience. You only need someone who behaves like people in your audience group and is comfortable with the study situation.

Links:

  • Putting Perfect Participants in Every Session

Henrik Olsen - November 13, 2005

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See also: Research (88)  Requirement Analysis (12)  Usability testing (29) 


 

8

Explain icons with labels

Part of the user experience efforts around Outlook 98 was improving the menu and toolbar structure. One of the problems that were noticed was that non-expert users didn't use the toolbar at all. One change caused a total turnaround: labeling the important toolbar buttons.

According to Jensen Harris icons can work by themselves, but the richness is just not there relative to human language.

Links:

  • The Importance Of Labels

Henrik Olsen - November 06, 2005

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See also: Navigation (44)  Text (14)  Tips and guidelines (63) 


 

9

Drop-downs or radio buttons

Dissatisfied with guidelines from the old GUI days that tell us to use drop-downs for long lists and radio buttons for short ones, Donna Maurer has done some thinking herself:

- When users are unfamiliar with the items in a list, radio buttons can assist them by communicating the domain at a glance
- On forms that will be used frequently, radio buttons are far easier and faster because they don't have to be opened and are easier to take in a glance
- When designing for the web screen real estate isn't an issue because of "the magic gadget called a scroll bar."
- Since frequent users become familiar with placement of items on a screen, the spatial placement of radio buttons can help them fill them in quickly
- Experienced users might prefer drop-down list that allow them type the first letter to get to the target item

Donna concludes that it all depends on user context, not on size.

Links:

  • It's not about size, it's about context - radio buttons or drop-downs

Henrik Olsen - October 29, 2005

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See also: Tips and guidelines (63)  Forms (11) 


 

10

Global navigation is rarely helpful

According to Jared Spool from UIE, persistent global navigation isn't important to users:

"Maybe they'll click on the global navigation on the home page (however, probably not, if the page is well designed). Then they'll never click on it again, because, after all, they are now looking for local information - not global information"

"We've observed that it's almost always the case that if a user is clicking on global navigation, it's because they are completely lost."

"Having global navigation isn't a bad thing. It's just not something that should garner a lot of resources, as it's unlikely to be important in the user experience."

Links:

  • The article Global Site Navigation: Not Worthwhile?

Henrik Olsen - October 21, 2005 - via Usernomics

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See also: Research (88)  Navigation (44) 


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