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41

Error message guidelines

According to Jakob Nielsen good error messages should:
- Clearly indicate that something has gone wrong
- Be in a human-readable language
- Be polite and not blame the users
- Describe the problem
- Give constructive advice on how to fix the problem
- Be visible and highly noticeable, both in terms of the message and how it indicates where things went wrong
- Preserve as much of the user's work as possible so that they don't have to do everything over again
- If possible, guess the correct action and let users pick it form a list of fixes
- Educate users by providing links to pages with an explanation of the problem

Links:

  • The article Error Message Guidelines Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 13, 2005

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Error handling (7) 


 

42

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 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 09, 2005

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See also: Search (27) 


 

43

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 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - April 17, 2005

Permanent link Comments (2)

See also: Error handling (7) 


 

44

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 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - April 10, 2005

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See also: Shopping Carts (9) 


 

45

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 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - March 17, 2005

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Accessibility (13)  Text (24) 


 

46

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 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 31, 2005

Permanent link Comments (1)

See also: Forms (30) 


 

47

Tips on moderating open-ended usability tests

Listening labs is Mark Hurst open-ended version of the traditional think-aloud test. He has put together some tips on how to moderate a open-ended test.

Some highlights:
- Don't write out specific tasks before the test, since the test should be based on where, how, and why people will use the site
- Don't lead the user in any way
- Act only on the lead of the user
- Avoid opinion-based questions
- Avoid conditional or theoretical "if" questions since they won't spotlight users' real-world actions
- Keep the user in "use mode", and avoid "critique mode"

Links:

  • The article Four Words to Improve User Research Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 25, 2005

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Usability testing (68) 


 

48

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? Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 03, 2004

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Navigation (63) 


 

49

Is your site ready for Christmas?

If you are in Christmas mood, 37signal have a lot of ideas for improving the online holiday customer experience. Here's a few:

- State the cutoff date for holiday delivery
- Offer gift finder categories directly on the home page
- Offer a "Shop By Interest" option
- Offer a "Shop By Price Range" option
- Offer links to gifts specifically for certain age groups
- Offer links to gifts specifically for men or women
- Lure value-conscious customers in by emphasizing low cost items on the home page
- Let people buy gift cards via the usual checkout process
- Give customers a sneak preview of your wrap
- Offer pre-wrapped gifts

Links:

  • 37signal's ideas for improving the holiday customer experience Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 29, 2004

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: E-commerce (27) 


 

50

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."

Links:

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

Henrik Olsen - November 22, 2004

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Visual design (19)  Ads (9)  Web page design (40) 


 

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