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11

Do links need to be underlined?

Jared Spool has brought up the good old question about whether links need to be underlined.

He doubts that users are less likely to find what they are looking for at sites where links aren't underlined. People will quickly learn how to spot non-standard links by waving their mouse around to see where the browser gives them "the finger."

But users are trained to click on underlined text. Eyetracking studies show that people dart from underlined text to underlined text in their initial exploration of a page.

If sites have some links underlined and others not, people get confused. Jared concludes:

"We think the visual design element of the underline is not required, but it is cruel to make users work extra hard because you can't decide."

Links:

  • Do Links Need Underlines? Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - July 06, 2006

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See also: Links (15) 


 

12

Eight usability problems that haven't changed since 1997

Webmonkey has published an excerpt from Jakob Nielsen and Hoa Loranger's new book Prioritizing Web Usability.

In the excerpt, they discuss eight issues that continue to be critical to usable web design:
- Links that don't change color when visited
- Breaking the back button
- Opening new browser windows
- Pop-up windows
- Design elements that look like advertisements
- Violating Web-wide conventions
- Vaporous content and empty hype
- Dense content and unscannable text

Links:

  • Excerpt from the book Prioritizing Web Usability Open link in new window
  • The book at amazon.com Open link in new window
  • The book at amazon.co.uk Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 20, 2006 - via Usernomics

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See also: Books (44)  Research (103)  Links (15)  Text (19) 


 

13

Users love link-rich home pages

Clients want their home pages to be simple. This is often translated into "has to hold as few links as possible."

Jared Spool from UIE argues that exposing people to the content of a site enhances simplicity. With a good design, the upper limit of links is much higher than one might think. Sites with up to 700 links on the home page have proven to work very well for its audience.

But populating a page with every possible keyword won't do the trick. The secret is clustering:

"Users look at each cluster and quickly decide whether the cluster is likely to contain their content or not. By focusing on just one or two clusters, the user winnows down their choices to just a handful of links."

If we don't make the clusters right, user won't succeed. Learning how users think about the content requires research, iterative design, and testing.

Links:

  • Lifestyles of the Link-Rich Home Pages Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 15, 2006

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See also: Simplicity vs. capability (5)  Home pages (6)  Navigation (56)  Cartoons (11) 


 

14

Web navigation is about moving forward

According to Gerry McGovern, the primary purpose of web navigaton is to help people move forward. It's not to tell them where they have been, or where they could have gone.

"The Back button helps us to get back if we want to get back. The global navigation allows us to reach major sections, no matter what part of the website we are on. Your job is not to design for all possible directions someone might want to take. That leads to a cluttered website and it will clutter the mind of and overload the attention of your customers."

Links:

  • Web Navigation is About Moving Forward Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 25, 2006

Permanent link Comments (1)

See also: Navigation (56) 


 

15

How to make users abandon forms

5 ways to make sure that users abandon your forms:
- Ask for information the user doesn't have at their finger tips
- Ask for a lot of information, but don't tell why you need it
- Force users to input data according to how the system wants it
- Provide cryptic error messages that tell users to correct their mistakes, but give no information about what they did wrong
- Split forms up into many segments, but don't give any indication of where users are in the process

I you follow these rules, be sure to overstaff your call center. You're going to need the extra help.

Links:

  • 5 Ways To Make Sure That Users Abandon Your Forms Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - April 01, 2006

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See also: Forms (19) 


 

16

Avoid links that scroll to sections of pages

According to Jakob Nielsen, we should avoid links that scroll to sections of a page, since users expect that links will take them to a new page.

Studies have shown that within-page links typically waste far more time than they save because users click back and forth multiple times to review the same material.

If you must use within-page links, tell the user that clicking the link will scroll to the page to the relevant section.

Only for very long pages, such as long alphabetized lists and FAQs, will the time saved be worth the confusion that within-page links can cause. Also, linking to a specific section on a different page is not as bad as using within-page links on a single page, since the users are taken to a new page.

Ideally, create separate pages for everything that serves as a link destination.

Links:

  • Avoid Within-Page Links Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - February 25, 2006

Permanent link Comments (2)

See also: Navigation (56)  Links (15) 


 

17

Alphabetized lists are random lists

"Unless you can be absolutely sure that users will know the exact terms in your list, alphabetical order is just random order."

According to Jared Spool, alphabetized lists work for people's name, states, cities, car models, and teams. But they fall apart for things where users don't know the exact wording. Users must resort to the same behavior they need when links are randomly ordered. They must scan every link to make sure they can see what is relevant and what isn't.

Instead, we should use a divide-and-conquer approach by categorizing the items. Once broken up into small groups, it doesn't matter what the order of the links are.

Links:

  • Alphabetized Links are Random Links Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - February 12, 2006

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See also: Information architecture (13)  Sitemaps (2)  Links (15)  Navigation (56) 


 

18

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' Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 06, 2005

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See also: Search (24) 


 

19

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 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 06, 2005

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See also: Navigation (56) 


 

20

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 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 29, 2005

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Forms (19) 


 

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