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11

Interview with Luke Wroblewski about visual design and usability

UIE has published an interview with Luke Wroblewski, author of the book Site-Seeing: A Visual Approach to Web Usability. In the interview, Luke talks about how visual design can improve a site's usability.

"When properly applied, visual design is all about communication. The better at communicating we are, the easier it is for our users to use and appreciate the web sites we design."

"…you can use visual design to communicate key concepts to your users. By addressing the question "What is this?" we communicate usefulness. By addressing "How do I use it?" we communicate usability. By addressing "Why should I care?" we communicate desirability. Clearly this communication goes beyond mere styling and "looking good".

Links:

  • Where Visual Design Meets Usability - An Interview with Luke Wroblewski , Part I Open link in new window
  • Where Visual Design Meets Usability - An Interview with Luke Wroblewski , Part II Open link in new window
  • Luke's book at Amazon.com Open link in new window
  • Luke's book at Amazon.co.uk Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - July 02, 2006

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See also: Interviews (17)  Emotional design (6)  Visual design (16) 


 

12

The battle between usability and user-experience

To Thomas Baekdal there is a conflict between high usability and great user experiences. Usability is about the ability to use something, while user-experience is about feelings and making people happy.

Freeways are usable, since they take you from A to B in the most effortless way. But they are also utterly boring. A twisting mountain road on the other hand is exiting. But far from usable.

According to Baekdal, we end up with mediocrity if we try to balance usability and user-experience. It's like trying to turn a mountain road into a freeway.

Instead we should focus on creating synergy by "making it easy to be happy."

"The result is that you use usability to take away all the things that distracts you from happiness, and you use the elements of user-experience to empower what people can do."

Links:

  • The Battle Between Usability and User-Experience Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 27, 2006

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See also: Emotional design (6) 


 

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)  Tips and guidelines (80) 


 

14

B2B sites suck

Business-to-business websites have substantially lower usability than mainstream consumer sites. In a usability test, the B2B sites earned a mere 50% success rate. In contrast, mainstream websites have a success rate of 66%.

According to Jakob Nielsen, the major problems with B2B sites are:
- The fail in supporting customers' decision-making process by preventing them from getting the information they need to research solutions
- They use segmentation that don't match the way customers think of themselves
- They require customers to register to get information, which they are very reluctant to do
- They lack pricing information (the users in the study prioritized prices as the most critical type of information)

Most of the test participants said that when they were thinking of doing business with a company, one of their first actions was to check out its website. By being user-hostile, the B2B sites turn away customers without ever knowing how many sales they've lost.

Links:

  • B2B Usability Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 30, 2006

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See also: Research (103)  Persuasive design (14)  E-commerce (22) 


 

15

Are ugly sites more trustworthy?

Josh Lehman has published a summary of the discussion about whether users trust a site more if it looks ugly. There seem to be an agreement among designers that it's not the ugliness of the sites that make them successful, but rather their usefulness and ability to provide the features the users want.

Josh concludes:

"I'm sorta relying on a consistant market need for design work in order to feed my family and pay the bills."

"But all that aside... I agree with the overall point that a site's function should always trump it's visual design."

Links:

  • The Ugly Conversation Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - March 30, 2006

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See also: Visual design (16) 


 

16

Spending on advertising vs. customer experience

What is most profitable? Investing in marketing to drive traffic to a web site or investing in the customer experience of the site?

According to ICE, it's insane to begin anywhere else than improving customer experience. "If you were throwing a party, wouldn't you clean up your house before you invited people over?"

By improving the customer experience, we improve conversion rate and can make more money with fewer people.

To maximize return on investments, the only smart move is to begin with customer experience and spend money on driving traffic to the site later on.

Links:

  • Put Your Money Where The Experience Is Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - March 14, 2006

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See also: Persuasive design (14)  Cost-justification and ROI (24) 


 

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)  Tips and guidelines (80) 


 

18

Easy site diagramming

Stephen Turbek shows how to save time on site diagramming using either Excel and Visio or Word and Inspiration.

"Use these lazy techniques and spend your time on better and more interesting problems than lining up little boxes!"

Links:

  • The Lazy IA's Guide to Making Sitemaps Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - February 01, 2006

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See also: Site and flow diagramming (5)  Information architecture (13)  Tools (66) 


 

19

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 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 18, 2006

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See also: Research (103)  Credibility, Trust and Privacy (6)  Visual design (16) 


 

20

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 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 01, 2005

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See also: Research (103)  Persuasive design (14)  Sections (5)  Web page design (31)  Navigation (56) 


 

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