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ISO standard for usability of everyday products

ISO has released a new standard for developing and testing the usability of everyday products, such as ticket machines, mobile phones and digital cameras. The standard outlines a five step process for design teams to follow and methods for testing the outcome of this process.


  • Article about the ISO standard by David Travis Open link in new window
  • The ISO standard Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 11, 2008 - via Via the product usability weblog

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See also: Usability testing (71) 



Top-10 design mistakes in web applications

According to Jakob Nielsen, these are the 10 most common usability violations found in web applications:

1. Non-standard interface controls, such as home-grown scrollbars
2. Inconsistency in the way things work, appear and are labelled across the app
3. No providing proper affordances that give people visual clues about what they can do with an object (e.g. that they can drag-and-drop an object)
4. Not giving proper feedback about what is happening
5. Bad error messages that don't tell what went wrong and how to fix it
6. Asking for the same information twice
7. Not providing defaults (e.g. in a list of radio buttons)
8. Dumping users into the app without giving them an idea of how it works
9. Not indicating how collected information will be used
10. Offering system-centric features that reflect the system's internal view rather than the users

And generous as Jakob is, he also has a bonus mistake: Reset buttons on web forms.


  • Top-10 Application-Design Mistakes Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - February 20, 2008

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See also: Web applications (6)  Error handling (7) 



User's skills have improved slightly

According to a study by Jakob Nielsen and co., people are getting more confident with the web. At their favourite sites, they perform incredibly fast and competent. But when people visit a site for the first time, well-known usability problems still cause failures.

To help new users, sites must provide much more handholding and simplified content. If they don't, they will scare people away.

In the study, they also found that violations of long-lived usability guidelines still cause problems and irritation, such as:

- Opening new browser windows
- Links that don't change colour when the have been visited
- Splash screens and intros
- A site's logo being the only way to get to the homepage
- Non-standard scrollbars


  • User Skills Improving, But Only Slightly Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - February 04, 2008

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See also: Research (130)  Site design (14) 



Guidelines for using links vs. buttons

According to Jakob Nielsen, links and buttons have different uses:

- Links are for navigation. They are used to move between pages in an information space.
- Buttons are for actions that cause some chance (e.g. adding a product to shopping cart).

But there are exceptions to the rules:

- Buttons can be used to move from page to page in a workflow process (e.g. "continue shopping" and "proceed to checkout")
- Links can be used for secondary actions with minor consequences.

The so called "command links" have the benefit that we can write longer command names and thus make them more descriptive. To reduce confusion, the link text should explicitly state that it leads to an action by making the first word of the link an imperative verb.

Another benefit to command links is that we can add explanatory text below the link. The text can be presented in a smaller typeface to emphasize its secondary nature.


  • Command Links Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 16, 2007

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See also: Links (19)  Forms (30)  Navigation (63) 



Guidelines for usable online flight booking services

The usability firm Webcredible has published 10 guidelines to help online travel companies to improve their online flight booking process:

1. Provide a clearly-labeled first step of the booking process on the home page
2. Provide a calendar
3. Help users find the cheapest flight by encouraging them to be flexible with their dates
4. Promote your cheapest fares and explain how to get them
5. Use a map to show where you fly to/from
6. Provide details on how to get to airports
7. Display prices in different currencies
8. Show the price in full as soon as possible
9. Make it easy to look for another flight
10. Make pages print-friendly

The guideless are based on a study of 25 of UK's biggest online agencies. Some of the guidelines are also relevant and transferable to other online booking services.


  • Download the guidelines at Webcredible Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 01, 2006 - via Putting People First

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See also: Forms (30) 



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: Research (130) 



Usability dwells in the details

According to Larry L. Constatine, successful interaction design for e-commerce sites and web- applications requires meticulous attention to detail, because the smallest matters can ruin the user experience. The ones to blame are the usability professionals failing to pay attention to details and not telling programmers that these tings matter.

In his opinion, it is possible to make your way more or less directly to good design, by following principles of good form and interaction. In the article, he list six broadly focused design principles to follow and explores them by examples.


  • The article Devilish Details: Best Practices in Web Design Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - March 25, 2004

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95) 



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)  Research (130) 



Web design and usability guidelines

Department of Health and Human Services's National Institutes of Health in partnership with the National Cancer Institute has published the book Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines. It provides guidelines for improving web design, navigation, and functionality. Each guideline is rated by "Strength of Evidence", based on findings from web design and usability studies.

The book is based on the guidelines, which has been available at for some years. It can be downloaded for free in PDF format.


  • Downloadable version of the book Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines Open link in new window
  • The web design and usability guidelines at Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 01, 2003 - via WebReference Update Newsletter

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See also: Books (47) 



ISO Standards for HCI and Usability

The International Standards Organisation publishes standards related to Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Usability.

These standards are categorised as primarily concerned with:

1. The use of the product (effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a context of use)

2. The user interface and interaction

3. The process used to develop the product

4. The capability of an organisation to apply user centred design


  • The HCI-related ISO list (and summaries) provided by Serco (TRUMP project) Open link in new window
  • Search and buy the reports (Paper or PDF) at the ISO site Open link in new window

Pieter-Jan Pruuost - January 07, 2003

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See also: Tools (106) 

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