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151

Defensive Design for the Web (By 37signals)

How To Improve Error Messages, Help, Forms, and Other Crisis Points.

Learn 40 guidelines to prevent errors and rescue customers if a breakdown occurs. See hundreds of real-world examples from companies like Amazon, Google, and Yahoo that show the right (and wrong) ways to handle crisis points. Evaluate your own site's defensive design with an easy-to-perform test and find out how to improve it over the long term.

This is the first book from the innovative 37signals web design and usability experts Jason Fried and Matthew Linderman.

Their publication is praised by other web design and usability authorities such as Jeffrey Zeldman, Mark Hurst, and Steve Krug.

Links:

  • The book description at 37signals.com (Option to buy there) Open link in new window

Pieter-Jan Pruuost - March 17, 2004

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See also: Books (47)  Error handling (7) 


 

152

The Page Paradigm again, again

Mark Hurst goes about his Page Paradigm once again, and he is forgiven, since it has a simplicity and consequence to it that Einstein would have loved.

Mark's Paradigm goes like this: On any given web page, users will either...
- click something that appears to take them closer to the fulfilment of their goal,
- or click the Back button on their Web browser.

This time Mark takes a look at some of the inherent consequences of the Paradigm, which includes:
- Users don't much care where they are in a website
- Users ignore breadcrumbs and other navigational elements that don't lead them toward their goal
- Consistency doesn't help users

What matters to the users is whether it's easy to advance to the next step towards their goal and elements that don't do the job will simply be ignored.

Einstein said that "Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler." Some argue that Mark's Paradigm might be too simple.

Links:

Henrik Olsen - March 09, 2004

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  Web page design (40)  Navigation (63) 


 

153

Breadcrumb usage requires training

SURL has made another interesting study on breadcrumb usage

Links:

Henrik Olsen - February 24, 2004

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See also: Research (129)  Navigation (63) 


 

154

Utilize web page footers

According to Jeff Lash, short is out, scrolling is in, and the bottom of web pages should be utilized more effectively. Keep users involved with features such as partial or total sitemaps, "Rate this" features, or special bargains and closeout.

Links:

  • The article More Than Just a Footer Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - February 14, 2004

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  Web page design (40) 


 

155

Widgetopia

Christina Wodtke has put up a section of eleganthack with a collection of widgets and user interface elements from various websites. They are nicely categorized and commented by Wodtke. Useful for inspiration.

Links:

  • Widgetopia Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 28, 2004

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See also: Web page design (40) 


 

156

Users are impatient with search

In a study, UIE observed that users only found what they where looking for 34% of the time using a search engine compared to 54% of the time by browsing categories.

Studying search data patterns, UIE found that the reason for the low success rate was that many users gave up if their first try was a failure. 47% of the users who failed only tried the search a single time. 30% tried twice and less than 25% tried more than twice.

The results indicate that users expect search to be perfect the first time and that we only have one, possible two chances to help users find what they are looking for with search.

Links:

  • The article People Search Once, Maybe Twice Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 10, 2003

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See also: Research (129)  Search (27) 


 

157

Usable forms for e-commerce

Since people don't enjoy filling out forms, you should minimize the annoyance by making them easy to use. Andrew Starling form Web Developers has some tips on how to design usable forms at e-commerce sites.

Some highlights:
- Don't ask too many questions and don't collect information that will never be used.
- Don't ask for the same information twice.
- Don't make fields required unless they are in fact required for the transaction
- Add explanations for required fields, where the reason for it isn't obvious.
- When using radio buttons and dropdown boxes, don't forget a "no selection" option, if the selection is optional.
- Long dropdown lists may be clumsy but they make error rates go down for things such as country and date selections
- Don't clear form entries that where perfectly valid when you send an error message.
- Separate required transaction forms from optional customer profiling forms
- Judge your usability success by how many forms are badly filled in

Links:

  • The article Usability and HTML Forms Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 08, 2003

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


 

158

Myth of the three-click rule

If you design web sites, you probably heard this statement: "I should be able to find everything on a site in just three clicks".

After hearing about the three-click rule for many years and having it as a requirement in some client projects, UIE decided to find out if the rule was true. By analyzing data from a study of 44 users attempting 620 tasks, UIE found that:

- There was no correlation between the number of times users clicked and their success in finding the content they sought.
- There wasn't any more likelihood of a user quitting after three clicks than after 12 clicks.
- An 80% task completion rate was seen after an average of 15 clicks.
- There was no correlation between the number of times users clicked and their reported satisfaction with the site.

UIE concludes that "The number of clicks isn't what is important to users, but whether or not they're successful at finding what they're seeking."

Links:

  • The article Testing the Three-Click Rule Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 27, 2003

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See also: Research (129)  Navigation (63) 


 

159

The ten most violated Jakob Nielsen design guidelines

Jakob Nielsen has made a top ten on usability principles from his book Homepage Usability which are most frequently violated:

1. Emphasize what your site offers that's of value to users and how your services differ from those of key competitors.
2. Use a liquid layout that lets users adjust the homepage size.
3. Use color to distinguish visited and unvisited links.
4. Use graphics to show real content, not just to decorate your homepage.
5. Include a tag line that explicitly summarizes what the site or company does.
6. Make it easy to access anything recently featured on your homepage.
7. Include a short site description in the window title.
8. Don't use a heading to label the search area; instead use a "Search" button to the right of the box.
9. With stock quotes, give the percentage of change, not just the points gained or lost
10. Don't include an active link to the homepage on the homepage.

Links:

  • The article The Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 15, 2003

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See also: Home pages (9)  Site design (14)  Guidelines and Standards (15)  Research (129) 


 

160

Web design and usability guidelines

Department of Health and Human Services's National Institutes of Health in partnership with the National Cancer Institute has published the book Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines. It provides guidelines for improving web design, navigation, and functionality. Each guideline is rated by "Strength of Evidence", based on findings from web design and usability studies.

The book is based on the guidelines, which has been available at usability.gov for some years. It can be downloaded for free in PDF format.

Links:

  • Downloadable version of the book Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines Open link in new window
  • The web design and usability guidelines at usability.gov Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 01, 2003 - via WebReference Update Newsletter

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See also: Books (47)  Guidelines and Standards (15) 


 

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