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141

Eight quick ways to fix your search engine

Almost every site's search engine could use improvement. Unfortunately, development teams are often stuck tweaking the search technologies that has been purchased and installed.

Jeffery Veen has eight quick ways to improve existing search engines:
1. Take away as much features as you can to simplify your results page
2. Make sure the default ranking you select matches your user needs
3. Make sure the search field has something in it before allowing the form to be submitted
4. Make best bets by taking the top 50 search queries on your site and find three to five pages that satisfy each query.
5. Simplify the layout of your search result page
6. Offer help for zero results
7. If your content is categorized, include links at the top of the result page that show how many results match each category
8. If you link to a page that offers usage instructions, include interfaces for those features so they can be used without switching back and forth.

Links:

  • The article 8 Quick Ways to Fix Your Search Engine Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 05, 2004

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


 

142

Web sites are secondary to user experience

According to Jakob Nielsen, the Internet user experience is becoming one of dipping a toe into websites rather than truly visiting them to explore and use them in depth. Users view the Internet as an integrated whole, and use search engines to hunt for specific answers.

To attract users and keep them involved, you should:
- Offer fly-trap content to attracts users by providing clear answers to common problems
- Embellish the answers with rich "see also" links to related content and services
- Go beyond pure information and provide analysis and insight for people who want more
- Publish a newsletters to build relationships

Links:

  • The article When Search Engines Become Answer Engines Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 23, 2004

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  Site design (14) 


 

143

Users' expectations on the location of common page elements

SURL has examined where users from four geographical areas worldwide expect common web page elements on e-commerce sites to be located. The results showed that users generally expected:
- Links to the front page to be located at the top-left of the page
- Ads to be located at the top of the page
- Internal links to be located at the left side of the page
- External links to be located at the left and right sides of the page
- Links to shopping carts and help to be located at the top-right of the page

Links:

  • The article Preliminary Examination of Global Expectations of Users' Mental Models for E-Commerce Web Layouts Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 04, 2004

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See also: Web page design (40)  Navigation (63)  Links (19)  Research (129) 


 

144

Effects of margins and leading on reading performance

SURL has studied reading performance with four layouts using different margins and leading (space between lines). The results showed that the layouts with margins improved comprehension of the texts, but made reading speed slower. Leading didn't have any significant effect on reading performance. Users favored the layout with margins and high leading, because they found it easier to read.

Links:

  • The article Reading Online Text: A Comparison of Four White Space Layouts Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 01, 2004

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See also: Text (24)  Web page design (40)  Research (129) 


 

145

Readability analyser

At readability.info you can analyse the readability of text and ascertain a multitude of scores and statistic based on common readability formats. The tool can analyse web pages and Word documents.

Links:

  • The online readability analyser at readability.info Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 21, 2004

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See also: Tools (106)  Text (24) 


 

146

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 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 13, 2004

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See also: Research (129)  Site design (14)  Search (27)  Navigation (63) 


 

147

Guidelines for link appearance

Jakob Nielsen's guidelines for links appearance:

- Links should be coloured and underlined, though exceptions can be made in menus
- Underlining is important for users with low vision and essential for colour-blind users, if you use red or green link colours
- Shades of blue provide the strongest signal for links, but other colours work almost as well!
- Use vivid and bright colours for unvisited links and "washed out" colours for visited links
- Colours for unvisited and visited links should be variants or shades of the same colour
- Use small fonts for nothing but non-important links, such as copyright info
- And, hey, don't underline text that's not a link and don't render text in link colours

Nielsen also dislikes visual effects, when the cursor hovers over a link, but I can't see how this could cause any usability problems.

Links:

  • The article Guidelines for Visualizing Links Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 10, 2004

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  Links (19) 


 

148

Choosing form elements

Sarah Miller and Caroline Jarrett present a four-step process for choosing form elements. Here are some of their guidelines:

- Avoid using drop-downs for navigation
- If it is more natural for the user to type the answer rather than select it, use type-in boxes
- If the answers are easily mis-typed, use radio buttons, check boxes, or drop-downs
- If the user needs to review the options to understand the question, don

Links:

Henrik Olsen - May 09, 2004

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


 

149

Web writing that works

Jonathan and Lisa Price, authors of the book Hot Text, have set up a website with loads of tips on how to write for the web. Among the good stuff are their guidelines, their advice on how to write within common genres (such as FAQ's, step-by-step procedures, and customer assistance), and an evaluation tool to measure the quality of your own writing. You'll also find lots of sample chapters from their book spread around the site.

Links:

  • The site Web Writing That Works! Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - April 26, 2004

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  Text (24) 


 

150

Usability dwells in the details

According to Larry L. Constatine, successful interaction design for e-commerce sites and web- applications requires meticulous attention to detail, because the smallest matters can ruin the user experience. The ones to blame are the usability professionals failing to pay attention to details and not telling programmers that these tings matter.

In his opinion, it is possible to make your way more or less directly to good design, by following principles of good form and interaction. In the article, he list six broadly focused design principles to follow and explores them by examples.

Links:

  • The article Devilish Details: Best Practices in Web Design Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - March 25, 2004

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  Guidelines and Standards (15) 


 

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