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11

Web-usability is improving

According to a survey conducted in late 2003 by the Nielsen Norman Group, usability on the web is on the upswing.

Some results from the survey:
- The overall success rate of completing a site-specific task was 66 percent and 60 percent for web-wide tasks. This compares to an overall success rate of 40 percent in a similar survey conducted in 1997.
- For site-specific tasks, the success rates of the less- and more-experienced groups were 59 percent and 72 percent, respectively, while web-wide tasks were completed at a rate of 52 percent and 67 percent, respectively.
- Web users are being more precise in their choice of search terms. In 1994 the mean length of a search query was 1.3 word, in 1997 1.9 word, and in 2003 2.2 words.
- One area in need of improvement is site search. While 56 percent of the searches done using a popular search engine were successful, only 33 percent of searches using a specific site's search tool succeeded.

Links:

  • The article Web-User Satisfaction on the Upswing

Henrik Olsen - May 13, 2004

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See also: Research (88)  Site design (8)  Navigation (44) 


 

12

Users are impatient with search

In a study, UIE observed that users only found what they where looking for 34% of the time using a search engine compared to 54% of the time by browsing categories.

Studying search data patterns, UIE found that the reason for the low success rate was that many users gave up if their first try was a failure. 47% of the users who failed only tried the search a single time. 30% tried twice and less than 25% tried more than twice.

The results indicate that users expect search to be perfect the first time and that we only have one, possible two chances to help users find what they are looking for with search.

Links:

  • The article People Search Once, Maybe Twice

Henrik Olsen - December 10, 2003

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See also: Research (88) 


 

13

Common web design practices

At the site Web Design Practices by Heidi P. Adkisson you'll find statically research on common design practices currently in use on the Web, covering items such as global and local navigation, breadcrumbs, search and links.

The site can be useful as a guide for making design decisions, but as Adkisson says:

"The data presented are intended to inform design decisions, not dictate them. Common practice does not necessarily equate with best practice - and the relationship between consistency and usability on the Web is remains a lightly researched area."

The site is an outgrowth of Adkisson's Master's thesis.

Links:

  • The site Common Design Practices

Henrik Olsen - October 13, 2003

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See also: Links (10)  Web page design (23)  Navigation (44)  Research (88) 


 

14

On-site search engines are worse that nothing

According to usability consultancy UIE on-site search engines often reduce the chances of finding information on web sites. In a study they discovered that when users searched for information using links the success rate was 53%, while the success rate of using on-site search engines was only 30%.

Some of the problems that UIE found were:
- Users didn't understand that some search engines distinguish between partial and entire words.
- Users didn't understand when typos and misspellings returned no search results.
- Users had trouble determining why a search returned a particular item and how it was relevant to their search.
- Users got irrelevant and often amusing results from full-text searches.

UIE concludes that on-site search engines are "significantly worse" than nothing, and suggest that "designers seriously consider not including a search engine on their sites until the technology is equal to the challenge."

Links:

Henrik Olsen - September 10, 2003

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See also: Research (88) 


 

15

Jakob Nielsen on information foraging

"…information foraging uses the analogy of wild animals gathering food to analyze how humans collect information online."

"The two main strategies are to make your content look like a nutritious meal and signal that it's an easy catch. These strategies must be used in combination: users will leave if the content is good but hard to find, or if it's easy to find but offers only empty calories."

Links:

  • Information Foraging: Why Google Makes People Leave Your Site Faster

Henrik Olsen - July 02, 2003

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See also: Navigation (44) 


 

16

How search query analysis can help us understand users

At Martin Belam's personal web-site, you'll find some very interesting articles on his search query analysis of the BBCi website. His findings shows us how such analysis can help us shape better interactions with websites.

Some of his major findings:
- Over 80% of the users make unique searches that never make the top 500 searches
- 1 in 12 searches are misspelled
- 1 in 5 attempts to use advanced search fail
- URLs make up around 3% of searches
- 36% of searches consisted of just one word, 35% two words, 16% contained 3 words

According to Belam, we can use such findings to:
- Discover misspellings, synonyms, non-conventional naming, URLs, and searches with few descriptive words and leverage this knowledge to provide the best possible content available within search results
- Spot popular content to be promoted more prominently and what non-existent content to provide
- Verify navigational labels against terms used by the visitors

Links:

  • The article How Search Can Help You Understand Your Audience
  • The article A Day In The Life Of BBCi Search

Henrik Olsen - May 23, 2003

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See also: Web log analysis (7) 


 

17

Searching vs. linking on the web

Sanjay J. Koyani and Robert W Bailey have surveyed the available literature on linking and searching. They have organized their findings into a series of observations and guidelines.

Some highlights:
- Users have no predisposition to searching or linking, and designers need to accommodate both strategies.
- Users are generally more effective when using links than search
- Advanced search features don't help users
- Users are progressively less and less likely to succeed with additional searches, and designers should make every effort to ensure that users get relevant results on their first attempt
- Designers need to be aware of, and make provision for, the terms that users typically will use for searching
- Search should accommodate misspellings, inappropriate case, spaces and punctuation, misused plurals, and typing errors

Links:

Henrik Olsen - May 17, 2003

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See also: Research (88)  Navigation (44) 


 

18

Browsing vs. searching for product information

UIE have tested whether users shopping online prefer to search or use category links when looking for specific products. They found that the design of the site and the type of products being sold determined user behaviour.

Even though many users claim that they always go to search immediately, there wasn't a single user in the study who always chose the search engine first. On the contrary, 20% of the participants chose links exclusively.

UIE concludes that users seem to use the search engine as a fallback when links doesn't satisfy their needs.

Links:

  • The article Are There Users Who Always Search?

Henrik Olsen - March 21, 2003

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See also: Research (88)  Navigation (44) 


 

19

NN/g report on e-commerce search

NN/g has observed 64 US and Danish users attempting 344 search tasks on 20 US e-commerce sites. The users had a success rate of only 64% in finding what they wanted. The report offers 29 design guidelines. Some highlights:

- Provide a clearly visible search box on every page
- Provide a simple search, with one search box and one search button
- Accept synonyms, spelling errors and variant forms of keywords typically used by customers
- Accommodate multiple-word input
- Always include search criteria, scope and items found in search results page
- Beware of long search result lists, as only few users look past page 2 of search results
- Take the users directly to the item when a search returns only one matching result
- On the "No results" page, make it clear why the search failed, allow the user to begin a new search, and provide alternative ways of locating products
- Support search for non-product terms

Links:

  • The 51 pages report Search ($49)

Henrik Olsen - October 09, 2002

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See also: Tips and guidelines (63) 


 

20

The Dotcom Survival Guide

The Dotcom Survival Guide from Creative Good was published in 2000 but is still relevant and revealing. The 103 pages report shows how dotcom's can survive by focusing on the customer experience, make it easy for customers to find and buy products, merchandise more effectively, and measure and improve the conversion rate.

The report includes reviews of thirty-one dotcom features, teaching by example the good and bad ways of creating the customer experience. Here you'll find good and bad examples of registration, merchandising, navigation, labeling, product comparison, size charts, search, shopping charts, checkouts, and fulfillment.

It also has a case study describing how Creative Good doubled a client's revenue by improving the customer experience.

Links:

Henrik Olsen - June 13, 2002

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See also: E-commerce (21)  Shopping Charts (5) 


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