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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.


  • The article Why Are Users Banner-Blind? Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 11, 2005

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See also: Navigation (63)  Ads (9) 



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."


  • The article Banner Blindness Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 30, 2004

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See also: Ads (9) 



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.


  • The article The Right Trigger Words Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 13, 2004

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See also: Navigation (63)  Text (24)  Links (19) 



Customers research online and buy offline

According to a survey, 65% of online US consumers come in to a retailer already knowing exactly what they want because they've done their product research online. The phenomenon, called cross-channel shopping, shows how important online merchandising is.

Additional findings from the survey:
- 51% of cross-channel customers are active shoppers who made at least one purchase in the past three months
- Cross-channel shoppers are comprised of wealthier, younger and more experienced online customers
- When cross-channel shoppers go to the offline retail, 47% end up spending more for additional products ($154 in average)
- 48% noted that the reason for buying offline is that they want to see the item before purchasing it
- 16% noted that the reason for buying offline was the need to talk with a salesperson before buying

The survey is based on 8,000 online customers and was conducted in 2004.


  • The article Majority of US Consumers Research Online, Buy Offline Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 18, 2004

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See also: E-commerce (27) 



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 were 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.


Henrik Olsen - October 10, 2004 - via Semantic Studio

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See also: Search (27) 



Paging vs. scrolling search results

In a study from 2002, SURL examined how much information should be presented at one time on a search result page.

In the study, users were asked to locate specific links on three different search result pages:
- One layout with 10 links per page
- One with 50 links per page
- One with 100 links on one page

The study showed that participants favoured and performed best on layouts with both reduced paging and scrolling.

Overall, the fifty-link condition had the fastest search time and was most preferred, possible because this layout required only a limited amount of paging.

The layout with hundred links was by far least preferred, while the ten link layout performed the worst.


  • The article Paging vs. Scrolling Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 18, 2004

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See also: Search (27)  Navigation (63) 



How sites complies with common standards

According to Jakob Nielsen, "much of the Web is like an anthill built by ants on LSD." Websites are too difficult to use because they deviate from expected norms.

Comparing two studies, Jakob has estimated the extent to which web designs complies with common standards:
- 37% of design elements were done according to the same way by at least 80% of the sites
- 40% of design elements were done the same way by at least 50% the sites
- 23% of design elements were done in so many ways that no single approach dominated

Jakob argues that we must move as far as possible into the realm of design conventions, because people become accustomed to the prevailing standards. They assume that every site will work the same way as other sites they know.


  • The article The Need for Web Design Standards Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 13, 2004

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See also: Guidelines and Standards (15) 



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: Web page design (40)  Eye-tracking (14) 



Designing the optimal flow

Psychologists have studied "optimal human experience" for many years, often called "being in the flow". In his paper, Benjamin B. Bederson reviews the literature on flow, and takes a look at how it can be related to interface design.

An optimal flow has the following characteristics:
- It challenges us and requires skill without being too hard to use
- It makes it possible for us to concentrate and focus at the task at hand without interruption
- It allow us to stay in control
- It gives us immediate feedback about progress
- It makes us lose track of time

What is most surprising about the findings is that when we experience the optimal flow, we are challenged and have to spend effort to acquire skills.


  • The paper Interfaces for Staying in the Flow Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 08, 2004 - via UI Designer

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See also: Navigation (63) 



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: Web page design (40)  Navigation (63)  Links (19) 


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