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1

Poor design causes 50% of product returns

A study has shown that half of all malfunctioning products returned by customers are in full working order. They are returned because customers can't figure out how to operate them.

Most of the flaws found in the study could be tracked back to the first phase of the development process: product definition.

The study was done Elke den Ouden from the Technical University of Eindhoven.

Links:

  • Complexity causes 50% of product returns

Henrik Olsen - March 08, 2006 - via 37signals

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2

The surfers are back

A report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that surfing for fun is now one of the most popular activities on the web.

"More Americans are turning to the internet as a place to hang out. Nearly a third of internet users go online on a typical day for no particular reason, just for fun or to pass the time."

The number of people reporting that they go online on a typical day to surf for fun is up from 25 million people in November 2004 to 40 million in December 2005.

The act of surfing for fun stands only behind using e-mail (52%), using search engines (38%), and is almost as popular as reading news (31%).

Links:

  • The press release Web Surfing for Fun Becomes a Staple of Internet Life

Henrik Olsen - February 16, 2006 - via Putting people first

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3

A study of older web users

Webcredible have conducted a usability test comparing eight older and eight younger users complete the same tasks on the web.

Some interesting results:
- The older users were more likely to blame themselves for any difficulties they encountered
- A majority of the older users missed critical information that required scrolling
- The older users were less likely to understand technical language
- The older users were more likely to click on elements which weren't links
- Many of the older users expressed a strong aversion to downloading from the internet
- The older users where more likely to use the available search functionality
- The older participants required over double the average time to complete a task
- The older users displayed a tendency to read all of the text appearing on a page before being willing to decide on their next course of action
- Most of the older participants reported anything less than 12-point type as being too small to read comfortably.

Henrik Olsen - February 05, 2006 - via UsabilityNews

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4

How to build a design pattern library

Design patterns have become a popular method for teams to tame the consistent-design-management tiger. UIE have looked at how teams build and maintain design pattern libraries and what they punt into their design pattern description. The result is great inspiration for building your own design patterns.

Links:

  • The Elements of a Design Pattern

Henrik Olsen - January 24, 2006

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See also: Design patterns (4) 


 

5

Web users judge sites in the blink of an eye

A study has shown that users judge sites within the first twentieth of a second and that their decision has a lasting impact.

The lasting effect of first impressions is known to psychologists as the "halo effect". If you can snare people with an attractive design, they are more likely to rate the site more favourably. According to the researcher Gitte Lindgaard of Carleton University in Ottawa, this is because of "cognitive bias". People enjoy being right, so continuing to use a website that gave a good first impression helps to prove to them that they made a good initial decision.

The study is published in the journal Behaviour and Information Technology vol. 25.

Links:

  • The article Web users judge sites in the blink of an eye

Henrik Olsen - January 18, 2006

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See also: Credibility, Trust and Privacy (6)  Visual design (14) 


 

6

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) 


 

7

Designing pages listing links to content

According to Jared Spool, gallery pages - pages listing links to content pages - are the hardest working pages on 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: Persuasive design (13)  Sections (5)  Web page design (23)  Navigation (46) 


 

8

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: Online magazines (3) 


 

9

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 (30)  Visual design (14) 


 

10

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: Requirement Analysis (12)  Usability testing (30) 


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Methods and the design process

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