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Big, bold, and colourful doesn't make things noticeable

The fact that people tend to ignore big, flashy, and colourful banners at the top of web pages suggest that screaming out loud doesn't guarantee that something will be noticed.

According to Don Norman, this has to do with conventions. People guide their search using previous knowledge about websites and direct their attention directly to the location most likely to contain information of interest, such as lists of blue underlined links.

Don's moral: "...if you want something to be salient, follow conventions. Violate the conceptual model, even if the violation seems perfectly sensible, and you are apt to discover that readers miss critical information."


  • The article Banner Blindness, Human Cognition and Web Design Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 22, 2004

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  Visual design (19)  Ads (9) 



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


  • More highlights by 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)  Eye-tracking (14) 



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


  • 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: Navigation (63)  Links (19)  Research (129) 



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.


  • 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)  Research (129) 



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.


Henrik Olsen - March 09, 2004

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



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.


  • 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) 




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.


  • Widgetopia Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 28, 2004

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How people scan web pages

The usability consultancy UIE conducted an eyetracking study to find out how people scan a typical three column web page layout.

Some major findings:
- The users usually scanned in the centre area first, then the left area and then the right column
- The users would only investigate the left and right column when looking for additional information
- The users quickly learned to look where they would expect to find relevant content and avoid areas which was unimportant to their current task, such as banner ads
- The users would only re-evaluate their scan strategies when they detected changes in the layout of pages
- The users where able to determine if surrounding content was relevant before looking directly at it, suggesting that peripheral vision plays a central role in the interaction with the web pages
- Ads attracted users only when they related to the current task


  • The article Testing Web Sites with Eye-Tracking Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 21, 2003

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



Common web design practices

At the site Web Design Practices by Heidi P. Adkisson you'll find statically research on common design practices currently in use on the Web, covering items such as global and local navigation, breadcrumbs, search and links.

The site can be useful as a guide for making design decisions, but as Adkisson says:

"The data presented are intended to inform design decisions, not dictate them. Common practice does not necessarily equate with best practice - and the relationship between consistency and usability on the Web is remains a lightly researched area."

The site is an outgrowth of Adkisson's Master's thesis.


  • The site Common Design Practices Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 13, 2003

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See also: Links (19)  Search (27)  Navigation (63)  Research (129) 



Balancing visual and structural complexity in interaction design

For people with little experience in interaction design it's tempting to equate visual simplicity with usability. But there is more between heaven and earth than meets the eye. The Q4 issue of GUUUI takes a look at some common pitfalls, where studies have proven that what appears to be simple isn't always what is easy to use.


Henrik Olsen - September 30, 2003

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See also: Visual design (19)  Simplicity vs. capability (7) 


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