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41

Navigation blindness

The Q1 2005 issue of GUUUI looks at how people navigate websites. Most web development projects put a lot of effort into the design of navigation tools, but fact is that users tend to ignore them. They are fixated on getting what they came for and simply click on links or hit the back button to get there. This behaviour suggests that navigation should be designed to be a more integral part of website experience.

Links:

Henrik Olsen - January 04, 2005

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See also: Navigation (46)  GUUUI articles (8) 


 

42

Banner blindness

The notion of banner blindness was originally introduced by the research team Benway and Lane in their paper from 1998. In a study they found that when users search for specific information they generally ignore anything that looks like an advertisement. In fact, they have a tendency to overlook anything that stands out.

The authors have the following advice to designers:

"One item separated visually from everything else on a web page may be completely ignored by web searchers, even by searchers who are deliberately searching for the information provided in that item. Designers should be cautious about following guidelines stating that increasing the visual distinction between "important" items and other items is desirable; the visual distinctiveness may actually make important items seem unimportant."

Links:

  • The article Banner Blindness

Henrik Olsen - December 30, 2004

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See also: Ads (6)  Research (93) 


 

43

Trigger words makes users dig into a site

According to Jared Spool, users browse websites using a Move-Forward-Until-Found Rule:

"...a web page can do only one of two things: either it contains the content the user wants or it contains the links to get them to the content they want. If a page doesn't follow this rule, then the users stop clicking..."

Trigger words is what makes users dig in to a site - words that contain the essential elements that provide the motivation to continue with the site.

In a study where the test participants were first interviewed about what they hoped to find on a number of large websites, UIE found that when the participants were successful in finding their target content, the words that they used in the interview appeared 72% of the time on the site's front page. When they where unsuccessful, their words appeared only 6% of the time.

UIE also found that when the participants didn't find any trigger words, they were far more likely to use the site's search function.

Links:

  • The article The Right Trigger Words

Henrik Olsen - December 13, 2004

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See also: Navigation (46)  Text (13)  Links (12)  Research (93) 


 

44

Is Navigation Useful?

In an article from 2000, Jakob Nielsen states that navigation is overdone at many sites. His studies have shown the same user behaviour over and over again:

- Users look straight at content and ignore navigation areas
- Users look only for the one thing they have in mind
- Users will ruthlessly click the Back button if a page isn't relevant to the their goals
- Users don't understand where they are in a website
- Users don't spend time learning certain design elements

Nielsen's advice is to get rid of superfluous navigation:

- Limit pervasive linking to maybe five or six things
- Do not link to all sections from all pages - let people go back to the front page
- Use breadcrumbs to link to all levels of the hierarchy above the current location
- Provide useful links to related content

Links:

  • The article Is Navigation Useful?

Henrik Olsen - December 03, 2004

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See also: Tips and guidelines (65)  Navigation (46) 


 

45

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 guaranty 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."

Links:

  • The article Banner Blindness, Human Cognition and Web Design

Henrik Olsen - November 22, 2004

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See also: Ads (6)  Visual design (14)  Web page design (23)  Tips and guidelines (65) 


 

46

Search interfaces should be guided by knowledge about how people search

According to Daniel E. Rose, current search interfaces reflect the inner workings of search technology rather than what we know about how people look for information. In his opinion, we should use our understanding of search behaviour to rethink how we interact with search engines.

Search interfaces should be guided by three principles:
- Provide different forms of interaction to match different search goals
- Facilitate selection of context for the search
- Support the iterative nature of the search task

Most of the time, search is an iterative process like the interaction between a reference librarian and a library patron. Users don't know the right questions to ask until they begin to see some of the results and learn about the subject. Rose mentions the AltaVista Prisma feature, which suggests search refinements, as an example of how search engines can support this iterative process.

Links:

Henrik Olsen - November 08, 2004

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


 

47

The optimal layout of search result pages

The authors of this article have studied the optimal layout of search result pages. Their findings suggest that categorizing search results improve users' performance significantly.

The authors tested seven different search result layouts, and found that:
- In all cases, categorized search results were faster than non-categorized results
- Despite the cost of additional scrolling, the layout with categorized search results, page titles and text summaries was the most effective
- Participants generally preferred the categorized results to the non-categorized
- Adding category information to non-categorized results didn't improve performance
- Removing category names from categorized results didn't hurt performance, but the participants disliked the absence of a category name

Apparently, categorized search results help users weed out irrelevant results and focus in on the area of interest more quickly.

Links:

Henrik Olsen - October 10, 2004 - via Semantic Studio

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See also: Search (24)  Research (93) 


 

48

Creating friendly forms

In this sample chapter from the book Defensive Design for the Web, Jason Fried and Matthew Linderman offer a set of illustrated guidelines on how to create attractive and functional forms:

- Highlight either required or optional fields
- Accept entries in all common formats
- Provide sample entries, pull-downs, and formatting hints to ensure clean data
- Explicitly state limits to characters, number of entries, and so forth
- If customers can't choose it, don't show it
- Validate entries (as soon as possible).
- Eliminate the Reset button and disable the Submit button after it's clicked
- Assist form dropouts by saving information

Links:

Henrik Olsen - October 04, 2004

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See also: Forms (11)  Tips and guidelines (65)  Books (32) 


 

49

Server side usability - How to make web servers behave

Most usability professionals don't have a driver's licence to servers and are not aware of the step that can be taken to make them behave in a user-friendly way. The GUUUI Q4 2004 issue takes a look at how to avoid that server technology becomes an obstacle to usability.

The article suggests that we should:

- Make the "www" prefix optional
- Support "www" prefix typos
- Support domain name typos and spelling errors
- Support erroneous country codes
- Use tidy URLs
- Don't leave users in a dead end when a page cannot be found
- Alert users when a server error occurs
- Have a "We are updating" page ready

Henrik Olsen - October 01, 2004

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See also: GUUUI articles (8)  Tips and guidelines (65)  URLs (3)  Error handling (5) 


 

50

Checkbox and radio button guidelines

Jakob Nielsen strikes a blow for checkbox and radio button design standards:
- Radio buttons are used for two or more mutually exclusive options
- Checkboxes are used when there the user may select any number of choices
- A stand-alone checkbox is used for a single option
- Use standard visual representation
- Visually present groups of choices as groups
- Use subheads to break up a long list of checkboxes
- Lay out your lists vertical
- Use positive and active wording for checkbox labels (avoid negations such as "Don't send me more email")
- Use radio buttons rather than drop-down menus
- Always offer a default selection for radio button lists
- Make sure that the options are both comprehensive and clearly distinct
- Let users select an option by clicking its label
- Define accesskeys for frequently used checkboxes and radio buttons

Links:

  • The article Checkboxes vs. Radio Buttons

Henrik Olsen - September 27, 2004

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See also: Forms (11)  Tips and guidelines (65) 


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