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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)  Web page design (40) 



Web-usability is improving

According to a survey conducted in late 2003 by the Nielsen Norman Group, usability on the web is on the upswing.

Some results from the survey:
- The overall success rate of completing a site-specific task was 66 percent and 60 percent for web-wide tasks. This compares to an overall success rate of 40 percent in a similar survey conducted in 1997.
- For site-specific tasks, the success rates of the less- and more-experienced groups were 59 percent and 72 percent, respectively, while web-wide tasks were completed at a rate of 52 percent and 67 percent, respectively.
- Web users are being more precise in their choice of search terms. In 1994 the mean length of a search query was 1.3 word, in 1997 1.9 word, and in 2003 2.2 words.
- One area in need of improvement is site search. While 56 percent of the searches done using a popular search engine were successful, only 33 percent of searches using a specific site's search tool succeeded.


  • The article Web-User Satisfaction on the Upswing Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 13, 2004

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See also: Site design (14)  Search (27)  Navigation (63) 



Breadcrumb usage requires training

SURL has made another interesting study on breadcrumb usage


Henrik Olsen - February 24, 2004

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See also: Navigation (63) 



Attitudes to web accessibility

During the summer of 2003 Birmingham Institute of Art and Design ran an online questionnaire, conducted interviews and carried out a literature review on web accessibility.

Some key findings from the questionnaire:
- 86% of respondents agreed that "Developers do not have adequate training" in Web accessibility.
- A "lack of expertise" was given as "the main barrier to developing accessible Web sites".
- 48% disagreed that "most development lifecycles are too short to incorporate accessibility".
- 64% of respondents agreed that "management is unaware of the importance of Web accessibility".
- 94% thought that "clients ask for their sites to be accessible".
- 67% of respondents agreed that "some WAI guidelines are difficult to implement".

In the article, the survey findings are discussed on the background of the interviews and literature reviews that were conducted during the research.


  • The article Attitudes to Web Accessibility Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 17, 2004

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See also: Accessibility (13) 



Insights from usability research findings

Kath Straub, Ph.D., CUA, Chief Scientist of HFI, has made comprehensive list of key research findings in the field of usability. The list draws from various sources and provides scientific insights and research references, which can be used to justify analysis, design, and testing decisions.


  • A list of usability research findings Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 11, 2004

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Users are impatient with search

In a study, UIE observed that users only found what they where looking for 34% of the time using a search engine compared to 54% of the time by browsing categories.

Studying search data patterns, UIE found that the reason for the low success rate was that many users gave up if their first try was a failure. 47% of the users who failed only tried the search a single time. 30% tried twice and less than 25% tried more than twice.

The results indicate that users expect search to be perfect the first time and that we only have one, possible two chances to help users find what they are looking for with search.


  • The article People Search Once, Maybe Twice Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 10, 2003

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See also: Search (27) 



Myth of the three-click rule

If you design web sites, you probably heard this statement: "I should be able to find everything on a site in just three clicks".

After hearing about the three-click rule for many years and having it as a requirement in some client projects, UIE decided to find out if the rule was true. By analyzing data from a study of 44 users attempting 620 tasks, UIE found that:

- There was no correlation between the number of times users clicked and their success in finding the content they sought.
- There wasn't any more likelihood of a user quitting after three clicks than after 12 clicks.
- An 80% task completion rate was seen after an average of 15 clicks.
- There was no correlation between the number of times users clicked and their reported satisfaction with the site.

UIE concludes that "The number of clicks isn't what is important to users, but whether or not they're successful at finding what they're seeking."


  • The article Testing the Three-Click Rule Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 27, 2003

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See also: Navigation (63) 



The ten most violated Jakob Nielsen design guidelines

Jakob Nielsen has made a top ten on usability principles from his book Homepage Usability which are most frequently violated:

1. Emphasize what your site offers that's of value to users and how your services differ from those of key competitors.
2. Use a liquid layout that lets users adjust the homepage size.
3. Use color to distinguish visited and unvisited links.
4. Use graphics to show real content, not just to decorate your homepage.
5. Include a tag line that explicitly summarizes what the site or company does.
6. Make it easy to access anything recently featured on your homepage.
7. Include a short site description in the window title.
8. Don't use a heading to label the search area; instead use a "Search" button to the right of the box.
9. With stock quotes, give the percentage of change, not just the points gained or lost
10. Don't include an active link to the homepage on the homepage.


  • The article The Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 15, 2003

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See also: Home pages (9)  Site design (14)  Guidelines and Standards (15) 



How people experience About Us sections

Web sites should have a strong About Us section, since users often wonder who's behind it, and whether it's credible.

The Nielsen Norman Group conducted a usability study of fifteen organisations to find out how users find and interpret information about companies on websites.

Some major findings:
- The overall success rate of finding information was 70%
- Users had particular difficulty finding basic company facts, such as the organisation's top executive or officials (59%), contact information (62%), the organization's philosophy (59%), and company history (58%)
- Users had trouble locating the company information when the link had a nonstandard name or was placed near graphical elements that looked like advertisements
- Users were fairly successful at answering what the companies does (90%)
- Government agencies was often the worst offenders


  • The article Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 27, 2003

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See also: Sections (8) 



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


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