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31

Categorization doesn't work for large amounts of information

According to Clay Shirky, the ways we apply categorization to the electronic world are based on bad habits. In his opinion tagging (free-form labelling, without regard to categorical constraints) is a better fit for large amounts of information.

Categorization can work for a limited information space that is based on formal and stable entities organized by small number of expert cataloguers. But it doesn't work for a large amount of information that has no formal categories and a non-expert user base.

Links:

  • The article Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags

Henrik Olsen - May 22, 2005 - via InfoDesign

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Search engines (7)  Information architecture (12)  Navigation (46) 


 

32

Users' expectations of the design of search

According to Jakob Nielsen search is such a prominent part of the web experience that users have developed a precise idea of how it's supposed to work. Deviating from users' expectations almost always causes usability problems.

Users expect search to have three components:

- A box where they can type words
- A button labeled "search" that they click to run the search
- A list of top results that's linear, prioritized, and appears on a new page

Given how ingrained it is, it's crucial to avoid invoking user's expectations for other interactions. Users' expectations are so strong that the label "Search" equals keyword searching, not other types of search.

Links:

  • The article Mental Models For Search Are Getting Firmer

Henrik Olsen - May 09, 2005

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Search (24)  Tips and guidelines (65) 


 

33

Guidelines for helping people when things go wrong

A white paper by 37signals lists 20 rules for improving contingency design - design for when things go wrong.

1. Use language your customers understand
2. Be polite
3. Offer an escape route
4. Offer customized "Page Not Found" error pages
5. Make sure the browser's "Back" button works
6. Reduce the need for constant back-and forth between different pages to fix errors
7. Use highly visible color, icons, and directions to highlight the problem
8. Don't make customers guess
9. Briefly and clearly explain what's happening
10. Don't block content with ads
11. Use smart search technology that understands common mistakes
12. Don't offer too many or inaccurate search results
13. Help log-in with tips or by emailing information
14. Offer contextual FAQs
15. Answer e-mails quickly and effectively
16. Don't force registration in order to assist customers
17. Solicit feedback on contingency design
18. Provide a fallback plan
19. Learn from mistakes
20. Plan for failure

Links:

  • The white paper Contingency Design: Maximizing Online Profitability By Helping People When Things Go Wrong

Henrik Olsen - April 17, 2005

Permanent link Comments (2)

See also: Tips and guidelines (65)  Error handling (5) 


 

34

Checkout guidelines

Neil Turner outlines ten ways to improve the usability of the ordering process at e-commerce sites:

1. Identify users with their e-mail address
2. Break up the ordering process into bite size chunks
3. Tell users where they are and where they're going
4. Don't make the ordering process harder than it needs to be
5. Address common user queries
6. Highlight required fields
7. Make the ordering process flexible
8. Put users' minds at ease
9. Have users confirm their order before buying then provide confirmation
10. Send a confirmation e-mail

Links:

  • The article Ten ways to improve the usability of your ecommerce site

Henrik Olsen - April 10, 2005

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Shopping Charts (5)  Tips and guidelines (65) 


 

35

30% of web users have low literacy

According to Jakob Nielsen 30% of web users have low literacy and the number will probably grow to 40% in the next five years.

Unlike higher-literacy users, lower-literacy users don't scan text. They can't understand a text by glancing at it and must carefully read word for word. Scrolling breaks their visual concentration and they start skipping text as soon as it becomes too dense.

Some recommendations:
- Use text aimed at a 6th grade reading level on important landing pages
- On other pages use an 8th grade reading level
- Place main points at the top of the pages
- Make search tolerant of misspellings
- Simplify navigation
- Streamline the page design
- Avoid text that moves or changes

A study showed that revising the text of a web site for lower-literacy users made it perform significant better for both lower- and higher-literacy users.

Links:

  • The article Lower-Literacy Users

Henrik Olsen - March 17, 2005

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Accessibility (11)  Text (13)  Tips and guidelines (65) 


 

36

Sitemap design - alphabetical or categorical?

In this study from 1999 SURL compared search performance with three types of sitemap designs:
1. Alphabetized sitemap
2. Full categorical sitemap
3. Restricted categorical sitemap, where the links of only one category is visible at the time

Results:
- Categorical sitemaps had significantly higher numbers of successful searches
- Users were significantly more satisfied with the categorical sitemaps
- The full categorical sitemap was the most preferred

The participants found that it was difficult to find information in alphabetized sitemaps because they had to guess how the links are worded. They also said that the full sitemap design was preferred to the restricted because it was easier to compare information between the categories.

Links:

  • The article Sitemap Design: Alphabetical or Categorical?

Henrik Olsen - March 06, 2005

Permanent link Comments (0)


 

37

Browse vs. search

This paper describes an interesting study of e-commerce sites that was set up to determine factors involved in the decision to use search or browse menus to find products.

According to the authors Michael A. Katz and Michael D. Byrne, the decision of a user to search or browse a site is affected by multiple factors including:
- The site information architecture in terms of labeling and menu structure
- The user's inclination to search
- The prominence of search and browse areas

They found that:
- Given broad, high-scent menus, participants searched less than 10% of the time, but they searched almost 40% of the time when faced with narrow, low-scent menus
- Participants showed a higher success rate when using the menus to find products as opposed to search
- Searching for products wasn't faster or more accurate than browsing

Links:

Henrik Olsen - February 24, 2005

Permanent link Comments (1)

See also: Navigation (46)  Search (24)  E-commerce (21)  Research (93) 


 

38

Usability of websites for teenagers

Jakob Nielsen and NN/G have studied teenagers using twenty-three web-sites. In the study they found that:

- Teenagers have a lower success rate (55%) than adults (66%)
- Their low performance is caused by insufficient reading skills, less sophisticated research strategies, and a dramatically lower patience level
- Surprisingly, tiny fonts caused the teens problems and provoked negative comments
- Teens like cool-looking graphics, but the sites have to be fast and the interaction straight forward
- They don't like to read a lot
- They're easily bored and want interactive features
- The word "kid" is a teen repellent

Links:

  • The article Usability of Websites for Teenagers

Henrik Olsen - February 01, 2005

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Research (93)  Site design (8) 


 

39

Form layout

Luke Wroblewski explores the pros and cons of vertical and horizontal alignment of form elements and their labels. He also takes a look at how we can separate primary and secondary submit buttons visually in order to minimize the risk for potential errors.

Links:

  • The article Web Application Form Design

Henrik Olsen - January 31, 2005

Permanent link Comments (1)

See also: Tips and guidelines (65)  Web applications (2)  Forms (11) 


 

40

Banner blindness is determined by navigation style

In a study, Magnus Pagedarm and Heike Schaumbrug found that when users browse websites "aimlessly", they are significantly better at recalling and recognising banner ads compared to users searching for specific information.

The authors suggest that navigation style exerts a significant influence on users' attention focusing. Directed search focuses users' attention on areas of the site that are expected to contain relevant information, while aimless browsing is guided by the appeal of the different features on a web page.

Links:

  • The article Why Are Users Banner-Blind?

Henrik Olsen - January 11, 2005

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Navigation (46)  Ads (6)  Research (93) 


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