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201

NN/g report on e-commerce search

NN/g has observed 64 US and Danish users attempting 344 search tasks on 20 US e-commerce sites. The users had a success rate of only 64% in finding what they wanted. The report offers 29 design guidelines. Some highlights:

- Provide a clearly visible search box on every page
- Provide a simple search, with one search box and one search button
- Accept synonyms, spelling errors and variant forms of keywords typically used by customers
- Accommodate multiple-word input
- Always include search criteria, scope and items found in search results page
- Beware of long search result lists, as only few users look past page 2 of search results
- Take the users directly to the item when a search returns only one matching result
- On the "No results" page, make it clear why the search failed, allow the user to begin a new search, and provide alternative ways of locating products
- Support search for non-product terms

Links:

  • The 51 pages report Search ($49) Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 09, 2002

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


 

202

Should we abandon usability guidelines?

In the article "Evolution Trumps Usability Guidelines", Jared M. Spool calls web usability guidelines into question.

In his opinion we can't assume that following guidelines will result in more usable sites if they haven't been tested properly in various contexts. Following such guidelines can even harm the usability of a site:

"This means that following untested guidelines is like drinking water from an unidentified source. It might quench your thirst, but it could also make you very ill."

The problem with guidelines is an old one in interface design and has been discussed intensively in the literature. Some of the most important conclusions here is, that usability guidelines has proven very useful, but they should be used with caution:

- Never use a guideline without considering its relevance in the context it will be applied to
- Never base your design choices solely on guidelines - use other methods to verify its usefulness
- Study how users interact with you designs

Links:

  • The article Evolution Trumps Usability Guidelines Open link in new window
  • Lyle Kantrovich's comment to the article Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 01, 2002

Permanent link Comments (1)

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


 

203

Date-entry guidelines

Based on usability tests Travel UCD has reviewed the design for entering dates into hotel booking systems. They suggest 25 date-entry guidelines, of which many would also apply to similar types of sites.

Some highlights:
- Use dropdowns to eliminate date formatting errors
- When selecting dates from a dropdown, combine month and year in one dropdown to reduce the number of items the user has to change
- Reduce the number of times users has to switch between mouse (e.g. dropdowns) and keyboard (e.g. text entry fields)
- Default dates to the current date, unless it's not a valid date entry
- Eliminate the possibility to select a combined month and year, which has already passed
- Error check if a date exists (i.e. not 31st of February)
- Don't abbreviate months (i.e. "August" rather than "Aug")
- Use a calendar popup, but don't depend on it, since many users won't use it
- Show the day of the week corresponding to the selected date to reduce errors

Links:

  • The report Hotel Reservation Websites: Date Entry Analysis Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 17, 2002

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


 

204

How to layout news pages

A study that addressed the question of how a news page should be presented showed that users prefer news listings with short abstracts.

In the study, users where asked to locate specific information within news articles with three different layouts:
1. A layout with full news text on one page
2. A layout with link titles and abstracts
3. A layout with link titles only

While the study showed no statistical difference in search time across the three presentation types, the layout with link titles and abstracts was preferred by the users. It was perceived most positively in terms of ease of finding information, being visually pleasing, promoting comprehension, and looking professional. The layout with full text was the least preferred.

Links:

  • The article Reading Online News: A Comparison of Three Presentation Formats Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 15, 2002

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


 

205

FAQ design tips

"Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are a great way to provide quick, easy answers to users' most common questions. However, ensuring that they fulfill their purpose effectively requires careful planning and design." Jodi Bollaert has collected 16 FAQ design tips.

Links:

  • The article Mind your FAQs (link goes to the WayBackMachine archive) Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 16, 2002

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  Sections (8) 


 

206

Using web forms wisely

Jodi Bollaert from IBM gives us a lesson in using form elements wisely. Some important things to remember:

- Give clues to what are acceptable inputs and how it should be formatted when you use text boxes.
- Don't make input boxes to small.
- Sometimes it's easier for the user to simply enter text than select from a dropdown.
- The fastest and easiest method to enter dates is to allow users to enter numbers in clearly labelled fields for month, day, and yeas.
- Radio buttons should always include a default selection.
- End labels with a colon.
- Don't put your labels inside text boxes.
- Do not use reset buttons.
- Place form elements in the same general location throughout the site.

Links:

  • The article Using Web widgets wisely Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 09, 2002

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


 

207

Scrolling may be the best approach for users

Users say they don't like to scroll. As a result, many designers try to keep their web pages short. But a study conducted by UIE showed that users are perfectly willing to scroll. However, they'll only do it if the page gives them strong clues that scrolling will help them find what they're looking for.

Short pages don't help users: "One criticism of long web pages is that they hide some information, forcing users to scroll. Short pages may avoid this potential problem by showing more (or all) of an individual page, but the information is still hidden - on other pages."

Links:

  • The article As the Page Scrolls Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 05, 2002

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


 

208

Designing your site

The article Designing your site

Links:

  • The article Designing your site Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - July 28, 2002

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  Navigation (63) 


 

209

Users either click toward their goal, or they click the Back button

In the July 2002 issue of the Good Experience newsletter, Mark Hurst returns to his "page paradigm" that he proposed a couple of years ago.

The page paradigm states that "

Links:

  • Online Experience: The Page Paradigm Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - July 15, 2002

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  Navigation (63) 


 

210

Interaction Design Patterns

Interaction Design Patterns are descriptions of re-usable solutions to common design problems expressed in a standard format. Martijn van Welie has compiled a set of about 60 user-oriented web, GUI, and mobile patterns, making it one of the largest collections for Interaction Design. At his site you'll also find some background articles about Interaction Design Patterns.

Links:

  • Martijn van Welie's collection of Interaction Design Patternes Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - July 02, 2002

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See also: Tools (106)  Design patterns (8)  Navigation (63) 


 

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