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Free report on accessibility from Jakob Nielsen

As a holiday gift, Jakob Nielsen and co. has made their 148 pages report on online accessibility available for free download.

The report contains:
- Results of usability tests of 19 websites with users with several different types of disabilities who are using a range of assistive technology
- Test data collected mainly in the United States
- 75 detailed design guidelines


  • Beyond ALT Text: Making the Web Easy to Use for Users With Disabilities Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 18, 2007

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See also: Accessibility (13) 



Use passive voice in headings, blurbs, and lead sentences

"Use active voice" is one of the key web-writing guidelines. But according to Jakob Nielsen, passive voice let us front-load important keywords in headings, blurbs, and lead sentences. This enhances scannability and search engine optimization.


  • Passive Voice Is Redeemed For Web Headings Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 23, 2007

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See also: Search engines (7)  Text (24) 



Intranet usability saves millions

According to Jakob Nielsen, intranet usability has improved 44% over the last few years. But there is still room for improvement. A company with poor intranet usability can save $3 million per year. A company with average usability $2.4 million. If you have 10,000 employees, that is.


  • Intranet Usability Shows Huge Advances Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 11, 2007

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See also: Research (129)  Intranets (3)  Cost-justification and ROI (27) 



Introductory text should explain the purpose of a web page

According to Jacob Nielsen, the filler text and platitudes found at the top of many web pages should be replaced with text explaining the pages' purpose:

- What will users find on this page, what's its function?
- Why should they care, what's in it for them?


  • Blah-Blah Text: Keep, Cut, or Kill? Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 01, 2007

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See also: Text (24)  Web page design (40) 



How to design selection-dependent forms

In web applications, we sometimes need selection-dependent forms, where users need to provide additional information after having made a selection. There is a myriad of ways to solve this design challenge. Luke Wroblewski provides an overview and discusses their pros and cons.


  • Selection-Dependent Inputs Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - March 06, 2007

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See also: Forms (30) 



How to you turn scanners into readers

Jessica Neuman Beck has written a nice little piece on how turn scanners into readers by making copy easy to process.

Here's her advice:
- Give your words some breathing room by increasing your margins and choosing short, concise paragraphs
- Organize information into sections with headlines to make it easy to decide which section to read and which can be skipped
- Break up your pages using relevant images and illustrations
- Use pull quotes to highlight important lines of text
- Include descriptive blurbs below headlines to explain what the text is about
- Use icons to denote certain site elements and break up text-heavy pages
- Style links in such a way that they're easy to recognize even to the people who aren't reading the copy
- Use lists that distill information to its essence


  • Does Your Copy Hold Up To A Quick Glance? Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - February 28, 2007

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See also: Text (24) 



Designing by stealing

"Good artists borrow. Great artists steal," Picasso once said. Looking at what others before us have done is a time-tested method for gathering inspiration.

As a way of learning how to solve design challenges, Jared Spool recommends that we take regular tours of competitors' sites, top popular sites, and sites we never heard about. By paying close attention to all the details, from the subtleties of page elements to the overall flow, we can build ourselves a catalogue of problems and potential solutions to use in our daily work.


  • Taking Time to Tour Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 14, 2007

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Use character counters with input fields

According to Robert Hoekman, input fields with a fixed character limit should communicate this limit to users. He shows how to do this with decrementing character counters telling the user how many characters can still be entered.


  • Design Stories: Character counters Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 18, 2006 - via Usability In The News

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See also: Forms (30) 



Label placement in forms

Matteo Penzo has conducted an eyetracking study to evaluate the best solutions for label placement in forms. A number of suggested guidelines arose from their test results:

- Place labels above input fields so that users aren't forced to look separately at the label and the input field
- Be careful to visually separate labels from the previous input field
- If you choose to place labels to the left of input fields, make them right-aligned
- Don't use bold labels - they are a bit more difficult for users to read than plain text
- Use drop-down list with care since they are very eye-catching


  • The article Label Placement in Forms Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 12, 2006

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See also: Research (129)  Forms (30)  Eye-tracking (14) 



How to communicate design concepts

Steve Calde from the design consultancy Cooper has found that there are some critical components to successfully communicating a design concept:

- Use realistic scenarios to show how users can achieve their goals using the product
- Present design concepts at a level of fidelity that matches the level of feedback you want
- Get all the decision-makers together in the same room so that everybody can see and understand the reactions of others


  • Communicating design concepts without getting skewered Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 09, 2006

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