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Common web design practices

At the site Web Design Practices by Heidi P. Adkisson you'll find statically research on common design practices currently in use on the Web, covering items such as global and local navigation, breadcrumbs, search and links.

The site can be useful as a guide for making design decisions, but as Adkisson says:

"The data presented are intended to inform design decisions, not dictate them. Common practice does not necessarily equate with best practice - and the relationship between consistency and usability on the Web is remains a lightly researched area."

The site is an outgrowth of Adkisson's Master's thesis.


  • The site Common Design Practices Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 13, 2003

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See also: Links (19)  Search (27)  Web page design (40)  Navigation (63) 



Product lists' impact on sales

A study conducted by the usability consultancy UIE has show that the design of product lists at e-commerce sites can have great impact on sales.

UIE found that when product lists provided enough information for the test participants to make informed product selections they where five times more likely to add items to their shopping carts, than when they had to click back and forth between product lists and product description pages - a behaviour named pogo-sticking by UIE. Also, the participants who didn't find enough information in the product lists where one-third more likely to quit shopping and had lower opinions of the site.

They study was conducted with 30 people who were given money to spend on products they wanted to buy.


  • The article Are the Product Lists on Your Site Reducing Sales? (registration required) Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 27, 2003

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See also: E-commerce (27)  Navigation (63) 



Fluid vs. fixed-sized web page layouts

In a study from 2001 SURL examined differences between fluid and fixed-sized left-justified and centred layouts of multi-column web pages. They found no significant differences between the layouts in terms of search accuracy, task completion time, or search efficiency.

But significant subjective differences were found that favoured the fluid layout. Participants stated that they perceived the fluid layout as being best suited for reading and finding information and that the fluid layout looked the most professional. The left-justified layout was the least preferred.

The layouts where tested with viewable screen widths of both 770 and 1006 pixels.


  • The article What is the Best Layout for Multiple-Column Web Pages? Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 22, 2003

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See also: Web page design (40) 



On-site search engines are worse that nothing

According to usability consultancy UIE on-site search engines often reduce the chances of finding information on web sites. In a study they discovered that when users searched for information using links the success rate was 53%, while the success rate of using on-site search engines was only 30%.

Some of the problems that UIE found were:
- Users didn't understand that some search engines distinguish between partial and entire words.
- Users didn't understand when typos and misspellings returned no search results.
- Users had trouble determining why a search returned a particular item and how it was relevant to their search.
- Users got irrelevant and often amusing results from full-text searches.

UIE concludes that on-site search engines are "significantly worse" than nothing, and suggest that "designers seriously consider not including a search engine on their sites until the technology is equal to the challenge."


Henrik Olsen - September 10, 2003

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See also: Search (27) 



Breadcrumb Navigation: Further Investigation of Usage

SURL have completed second study of breadcrumb usage:

Some major findings:
- 40% of the participants used the breadcrumb trail
- Only 6% of the page clicks where accounted for by the breadcrumb


Henrik Olsen - August 24, 2003

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See also: Navigation (63) 



Online health searches have become commonplace

According to Pew Internet & American Life Project, the act of looking for health or medical information is one of the most popular activities online, after e-mail and researching commercial products and services. 80% of adult Internet users report that they have searched for at least one of 16 major health topics online.

Some of the more popular health topics are:
- Specific disease or medical problem (63%)
- Certain medical treatment or procedure (47%)
- Diet, nutrition, vitamins, or nutritional supplements (44%)
- Exercise or fitness (36%)
- Prescription or over-the-counter drugs (34%)
- Alternative treatments or medicines (28%)

Some additional findings:
- Women are the primary consumers of online health information
- Internet users find support in online support groups and use e-mail to discuss health issues with family and friends.
- Health seekers want access to more information, but can't always find what is already available online


  • The report Internet Health Resources Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 06, 2003

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See also: Search engines (7) 



Breadth vs. depth in menu design

According to Kath Straub and Susan Weinschenk, research shows that users generally find information faster in broad and shallow structured sites than the narrow and deep ones


  • The article Breadth vs. Depth Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 26, 2003

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See also: Navigation (63) 



The myth of 7 +/- 2

Periodically, we hear about the rule of 7 +/- 2 from inexperienced interaction designers: Users can't handle more than 7 bullets on a page, seven items in a form list, or more than seven links in a menu. According to James Kalback, this has no evidence in reality


  • The Myth of Seven, Plus or Minus 2 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 23, 2003

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See also: Information architecture (15)  Links (19)  Navigation (63) 



Pop-up ads work

Sad but true


  • The article Pop-Ups Work Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 11, 2003

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See also: Ads (9) 



Optimal line length on monitors

Dr. Bob Bailey has looked at the literature about optimal line length when reading from a monitor: "What can we conclude when users are reading prose text from monitors? Users tend to read faster if the line lengths are longer (up to 10 inches). If the line lengths are too short (2.5 inches or less) it may impede rapid reading. Finally, users tend to prefer lines that are moderately long (4 to 5 inches)."


  • The article Optimal Line Length: Research Supporting Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 01, 2003

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See also: Text (24)  Web page design (40) 


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