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BROWSE GUUUI POSTINGS

Navigation (63)  Web page design (40)  Search (27)  Text (24)  Forms (30)  Links (19)  Guidelines and Standards (15)  Site design (14)  Ads (9)  Design patterns (8)  Sections (8)  Shopping Carts (9)  Error handling (7)  Home pages (9)  Help (3)  E-mails (3)  Sitemaps (2)  Personalization (1)  Print-friendly (1)  Landing pages (5) 
 

131

Search interfaces should be guided by knowledge about how people search

According to Daniel E. Rose, current search interfaces reflect the inner workings of search technology rather than what we know about how people look for information. In his opinion, we should use our understanding of search behaviour to rethink how we interact with search engines.

Search interfaces should be guided by three principles:
- Provide different forms of interaction to match different search goals
- Facilitate selection of context for the search
- Support the iterative nature of the search task

Most of the time, search is an iterative process like the interaction between a reference librarian and a library patron. Users don't know the right questions to ask until they begin to see some of the results and learn about the subject. Rose mentions the AltaVista Prisma feature, which suggests search refinements, as an example of how search engines can support this iterative process.

Links:

Henrik Olsen - November 08, 2004

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See also: Search (27)  Tips and guidelines (95) 


 

132

The optimal layout of search result pages

The authors of this article have studied the optimal layout of search result pages. Their findings suggest that categorizing search results improve users' performance significantly.

The authors tested seven different search result layouts, and found that:
- In all cases, categorized search results were faster than non-categorized results
- Despite the cost of additional scrolling, the layout with categorized search results, page titles and text summaries were the most effective
- Participants generally preferred the categorized results to the non-categorized
- Adding category information to non-categorized results didn't improve performance
- Removing category names from categorized results didn't hurt performance, but the participants disliked the absence of a category name

Apparently, categorized search results help users weed out irrelevant results and focus in on the area of interest more quickly.

Links:

Henrik Olsen - October 10, 2004 - via Semantic Studio

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See also: Research (129)  Search (27) 


 

133

Creating friendly forms

In this sample chapter from the book Defensive Design for the Web, Jason Fried and Matthew Linderman offer a set of illustrated guidelines on how to create attractive and functional forms:

- Highlight either required or optional fields
- Accept entries in all common formats
- Provide sample entries, pull-downs, and formatting hints to ensure clean data
- Explicitly state limits to characters, number of entries, and so forth
- If customers can't choose it, don't show it
- Validate entries (as soon as possible).
- Eliminate the Reset button and disable the Submit button after it's clicked
- Assist form dropouts by saving information

Links:

Henrik Olsen - October 04, 2004

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See also: Books (47)  Tips and guidelines (95)  Forms (30) 


 

134

Server side usability - How to make web servers behave

Most usability professionals don't have a driver's licence to servers and are not aware of the step that can be taken to make them behave in a user-friendly way. The GUUUI Q4 2004 issue takes a look at how to avoid that server technology becomes an obstacle to usability.

The article suggests that we should:

- Make the "www" prefix optional
- Support "www" prefix typos
- Support domain name typos and spelling errors
- Support erroneous country codes
- Use tidy URLs
- Don't leave users in a dead end when a page cannot be found
- Alert users when a server error occurs
- Have a "We are updating" page ready

Links:

Henrik Olsen - October 01, 2004

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See also: GUUUI articles (11)  Tips and guidelines (95)  URLs (3)  Error handling (7) 


 

135

Checkbox and radio button guidelines

Jakob Nielsen strikes a blow for checkbox and radio button design standards:
- Radio buttons are used for two or more mutually exclusive options
- Checkboxes are used when there the user may select any number of choices
- A stand-alone checkbox is used for a single option
- Use standard visual representation
- Visually present groups of choices as groups
- Use subheads to break up a long list of checkboxes
- Lay out your lists vertical
- Use positive and active wording for checkbox labels (avoid negations such as "Don't send me more email")
- Use radio buttons rather than drop-down menus
- Always offer a default selection for radio button lists
- Make sure that the options are both comprehensive and clearly distinct
- Let users select an option by clicking its label
- Define accesskeys for frequently used checkboxes and radio buttons

Links:

  • The article Checkboxes vs. Radio Buttons Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 27, 2004

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See also: Forms (30)  Tips and guidelines (95) 


 

136

Paging vs. scrolling search results

In a study from 2002, SURL examined how much information should be presented at one time on a search result page.

In the study, users were asked to locate specific links on three different search result pages:
- One layout with 10 links per page
- One with 50 links per page
- One with 100 links on one page

The study showed that participants favoured and performed best on layouts with both reduced paging and scrolling.

Overall, the fifty-link condition had the fastest search time and was most preferred, possible because this layout required only a limited amount of paging.

The layout with hundred links was by far least preferred, while the ten link layout performed the worst.

Links:

  • The article Paging vs. Scrolling Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 18, 2004

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See also: Research (129)  Search (27)  Navigation (63) 


 

137

How to handle the Page Not Found error

Every site should handle the page not found error gracefully. Two quite similar articles have the following tips:
- Do not redirect people to the home page
- Let the visitor know that something unexpected is going on at first glance
- Do not call it "Error 404"
- Don't assume it's the visitor's fault
- Offer a site map
- Offer a search form
- Fix broken links
- Redirect outdated links to the new page locations

It's also possible to make 404 pages more intelligent by:
- Checking whether the link is an outdated bookmark and redirect to the new location
- Check whether it's a broken link in the site and notify the webmaster
- Check whether the link is from a search engine and use the search phrases to suggest relevant content (e.g. by doing an internal search)
- Add spell checking to catch minor typos in the URL

Links:

  • 'Not Found' Is Not An Option: Error Handling and User Experience Open link in new window
  • The Perfect 404 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 15, 2004

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See also: Error handling (7)  Tips and guidelines (95) 


 

138

How sites complies with common standards

According to Jakob Nielsen, "much of the Web is like an anthill built by ants on LSD." Websites are too difficult to use because they deviate from expected norms.

Comparing two studies, Jakob has estimated the extent to which web designs complies with common standards:
- 37% of design elements were done according to the same way by at least 80% of the sites
- 40% of design elements were done the same way by at least 50% the sites
- 23% of design elements were done in so many ways that no single approach dominated

Jakob argues that we must move as far as possible into the realm of design conventions, because people become accustomed to the prevailing standards. They assume that every site will work the same way as other sites they know.

Links:

  • The article The Need for Web Design Standards Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 13, 2004

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See also: Guidelines and Standards (15)  Research (129) 


 

139

Eyetracking project reveals how people perceive new sites

A very interesting eyetracking research project looked through the eyes of 46 people to learn how they see online news. It's impossible to summarize the many findings, but here are some highlights:

- Headlines had less than a second of a site visitor's attention
- Smaller type encourages focused viewing behavior
- Larger type promotes scanning
- Shorter paragraphs get more attention than longer ones
- People often looked only at the first couple of words in blurbs
- People typically looked below the first screen
- Navigation placed at the top of a homepage performed best

Links:

  • More highlights by CyberJournalist.net Open link in new window
  • The Eyetrack III web site Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 09, 2004 - via WebReference Update

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See also: Research (129)  Web page design (40)  Eye-tracking (14) 


 

140

Designing the optimal flow

Psychologists have studied "optimal human experience" for many years, often called "being in the flow". In his paper, Benjamin B. Bederson reviews the literature on flow, and takes a look at how it can be related to interface design.

An optimal flow has the following characteristics:
- It challenges us and requires skill without being too hard to use
- It makes it possible for us to concentrate and focus at the task at hand without interruption
- It allow us to stay in control
- It gives us immediate feedback about progress
- It makes us lose track of time

What is most surprising about the findings is that when we experience the optimal flow, we are challenged and have to spend effort to acquire skills.

Links:

  • The paper Interfaces for Staying in the Flow Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 08, 2004 - via UI Designer

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See also: Research (129)  Navigation (63) 


 

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