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91

How to build a design pattern library

Design patterns have become a popular method for teams to tame the consistent-design-management tiger. UIE have looked at how teams build and maintain design pattern libraries and what they punt into their design pattern description. The result is great inspiration for building your own design patterns.

Links:

  • The Elements of a Design Pattern Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 24, 2006

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See also: Design patterns (8) 


 

92

Donald Norman's guidelines on writing manuals

"Is a manual important? Yes, but even more important is a well-designed product, one so well conceived and constructed that either the manual is not needed at all, or if it is, where the manual can be short, simple, and easy to understand and then to remember."

Norman suggests the following rules to accomplish this:
- Use excellent technical writers
- Make the writers part of the design team
- Let people get right to work with minimum reading by using short and simple explanations with illustrations
- Test the manual with people from the intended user community
- Get rid of the lawyers (or at the least, put their required warnings in a seperate appendix)

Links:

  • How To Write an Effective Manual Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 03, 2006

Permanent link Comments (1)

See also: Help (3)  Text (24) 


 

93

Only experts use help

In usability tests Jensen Harris has observed that help in Microsoft Office is mostly used by experts and enthusiasts. While novices and intermediates click around and experiment, experts try to reason thing out and look them up in help.

Jensen suggests that reasons for the varied usage of help include:
- Only experts know the "magic" words to bring up what they're looking for
- Help doesn't help you become familiar with a piece of software - it's designed to troubleshoot, not to teach.
- The process of experimenting with the product is totally removed from opening and reading articles in the help window
- Experts use more of the powerful and involved features, and thus benefit from the help system more.

Links:

  • Help Is For Experts Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 17, 2005

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See also: Help (3)  Research (129) 


 

94

Scent, Search, and the Pursuit of User Happiness

Jared M. Spool has made his presentation Scent, Search, and the Pursuit of User Happiness available online. Download a MP3 and a PDF, listen to the presentation in its entirety and see all the examples using the presentation handout.

Spool shares practical design strategies from effective web sites and shows:
- How the best teams allocate their resources by focusing on the most important content on the site and how this affects every page
- Proven design techniques, such as persona-based design, to help teams understand what users need from the site
- Why the most effective sites never relaunch, yet manage to always have fresh designs
- How we can utilize the scent of information and how people search for their content to give your site a huge advantage

Links:

  • The presentation Scent, Search, and the Pursuit of User Happiness Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 09, 2005

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See also: Audio and video (48)  Navigation (63)  Personas (19)  Talks and presentations (18) 


 

95

Best bets - hand-crafted search results

Much can be done to improve the quality of search results. But according to James Robertson, no amount of tweaking search engines will ensure that the most relevant results always appear at the beginning of the list. This is where "best bets" come in.

Best bets are a hand-created list of key resources for common queries, presented prominently at the beginning of the search results. By analyzing search statistics, we can ensure that the most useful pages are listed right at the top of popular searches.

Links:

  • Search engine 'best bets' Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 06, 2005

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  Search (27) 


 

96

Designing pages listing links to content

According to Jared Spool, gallery pages - pages listing links to content pages - are the hardest working pages on a web site. They separate those users who find the content they are looking for from the users who don't.

Studies by UIE show that when gallery pages don't contain the information that users will need to make their choice, they have to resort to "pogosticking" - jumping back and forth between the gallery and the content pages hoping they'll eventually hit the content they desire.

UIE also noticed that users expect the most important items to always be listed first in the gallery. If the first few items aren't of interest, they often assume the rest will be even less interesting.

Links:

  • Galleries: The Hardest Working Page on Your Site Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 01, 2005

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See also: Research (129)  Persuasive design (21)  Sections (8)  Web page design (40)  Navigation (63) 


 

97

The eight types of navigation pages

Watching users search for content, UIE realized that there are essentially eight types of navigation pages a user can run into:

- Content pages
- Galleries, listing links to content pages
- Departments, used to list links to gallery pages
- Stores, used to segment content areas (e.g. World, Business, Sports etc. on a new site) and list links to departments
- Gallery-level search results, which are similar to gallery pages, except they are search engine generated results
- Department-level search results, used to divide search results into departments to assist in the winnowing process
- Search entry page, where the user enters their search query (frequently a section of a page)
- Home page (landing pages) tasked with orienting users in the right direction

According to Jared Spool, the most navigation failures are due to poorly-designed gallery pages that don't reveal what's on the content pages they link to.

Links:

  • The article The 8 Types of Navigation Pages Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 29, 2005

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See also: Navigation (63) 


 

98

Explain icons with labels

"Part of the user experience efforts around Outlook 98 was improving the menu and toolbar structure. One of the problems that were noticed was that non-expert users didn't use the toolbar at all. One change caused a total turnaround: labeling the important toolbar buttons."

According to Jensen Harris, icons can work by themselves, but the richness is just not there relative to human language.

Links:

  • The Importance Of Labels Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 06, 2005

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  Navigation (63) 


 

99

Drop-downs or radio buttons

Dissatisfied with guidelines from the old GUI days that tell us to use drop-downs for long lists and radio buttons for short ones, Donna Maurer has done some thinking herself:

- When users are unfamiliar with the items in a list, radio buttons can assist them by communicating the domain at a glance
- On forms that will be used frequently, radio buttons are far easier and faster because they don't have to be opened and are easier to take in a glance
- When designing for the web screen real estate isn't an issue because of "the magic gadget called a scroll bar."
- Since frequent users become familiar with placement of items on a screen, the spatial placement of radio buttons can help them fill them in quickly
- Experienced users might prefer drop-down list that allow them type the first letter to get to the target item

Donna concludes that it all depends on user context, not on size.

Links:

  • It's not about size, it's about context - radio buttons or drop-downs Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 29, 2005

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  Forms (30) 


 

100

Global navigation is rarely helpful

According to Jared Spool from UIE, persistent global navigation isn't important to users:

"Maybe they'll click on the global navigation on the home page (however, probably not, if the page is well designed). Then they'll never click on it again, because, after all, they are now looking for local information - not global information"

"We've observed that it's almost always the case that if a user is clicking on global navigation, it's because they are completely lost."

"Having global navigation isn't a bad thing. It's just not something that should garner a lot of resources, as it's unlikely to be important in the user experience."

Links:

  • The article Global Site Navigation: Not Worthwhile? Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 21, 2005 - via Usernomics

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See also: Research (129)  Navigation (63) 


 

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