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Top usability findings 2010

Jeff Sauro has complied a list of top 10 research-based usability findings of the year 2010. Here's a sample of the five most interesting:

- Users are able to self-report around half of the problems that can be found during moderated usability tests

- Usability accounts for at least 30% of customer loyalty

- Ratings of website usability after only 5 seconds are the same as those after 10 minutes.

- 10% of paid participants in remote user research will cheat

- Usability problems are almost 10-times more common on business applications than on websites


  • Top 10 Research-Based Usability Findings of 2010 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 12, 2011

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See also: Usability testing (71)  Cost-justification and ROI (28)  User research (24) 



Users ignore decorative images

In this article, Jakob Nielsen shows how eyetracking studies reveal that user pay close attention to images on websites that contain relevant information (such as product images), but completely ignore "fluffy pictures" that are purely decorative.

What Jakob forgets to mention is that eyetracking equipment only records eye fixations and not peripheral vision, that is, what we are able to see outside the center of gaze. So the studies don't prove that "feel-good" imagery fail their mission.


  • Photos as Web Content Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 01, 2010

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See also: Emotional design (10)  E-commerce (28)  Web page design (41) 



Use summaries on blog front pages

What's the best layout for a blog front page? To show full articles or to show summaries of the latest post?

According to research done by Jakob Nielsen, using summaries works best with blogs that people don't visit every day. They are better at drawing readers in as they offer a broader selection of subjects and increases the likelihood that they will find something that interests them.


  • Corporate Blogs: Front Page Structure Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 10, 2010

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See also: Web page design (41)  Text (24)  Home pages (9) 



iPad usability is a setback to the 90's

Jakob Nielsen has conducted a preliminary usability study of the Apple iPad. His findings "revived memories of Web designs from 1993":

- Because of the apps' print media aesthetic users don't know where they can click, which options exist and trigger unexpected actions by mistake

- Common actions are difficult to learn since each application has a completely different way of doing similar things

- The user interface suffers from being a scaled-up iPhone. For example, people tend to ignore or forget about the tab bar at the bottom of the screen

- People want more freedom and control than swiping for the next page when reading

- Screen elements tend to be too small for people to be able to touch them


  • iPad Usability: First Findings From User Testing Open link in new window
  • Free report: Usability of iPad Apps and Websites Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 11, 2010

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Forget the fold - people expect to have to scroll

Watching over 800 user test sessions, cxpartners report to have seen the page fold as a barrier to users on only 3 occations. In addition, eye tracking studies commonly show a strong hotspot over the scrollbar, indicating that people expect to have to scroll.

Cxpartners gives the following advise on how to deal with the fold:

- Don't cram everything above the fold. Use whitespace and imagery to encourage scrolling.

- Don't use stark, horizontal lines as they discourage scrolling

- Avoid the use of in-page scroll bars - the browser scrollbar is an indicator of the amount of content on the page


  • The myth of the page fold: evidence from user testing Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 10, 2010

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See also: Web page design (41) 



Graphics on websites - helpful or harmful?

According to Jared Spool, research by his company UIE shows that well-done navigation and content graphics help users. Ornamental graphics, on the other side, doesn't prove to benefit the user experinece. In their research, they can't find any evidence that they help users trust a site or make it seem more professional or friendly. On the contratry, ornamental graphics can be distracting and annoying to users.

Jared recommends that teams focus on delivering helpful navigation and content graphics and resist the temptation for ornamental graphics.


  • Deciding When Graphics Will Help (and When They Won't) Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 06, 2009

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See also: Visual design (20) 



The usability of real-time feedback in forms

To better understand the usability of inline validation in forms - that is, forms that provide real-time feedback as people fill in answers - Luke Wroblewski set up a usability test comparing different types of form feedback.

Though the participants were confused when simple questions, such as a person's name, were marked "correct", he found that they were faster, more successful, less error-prone, and more satisfied when they used a form with inline validation.

Also, giving feedback after the particpants finished typing - rather than while they were typing - helped the participants complete the forms more quickly.


  • Inline Validation in Web Forms Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 07, 2009

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See also: Forms (30) 



Tips on how to design forms

To find out how to design user-friendly forms, cxpartner have tested four registrations forms at Yahoo! Mail, Googlemail, Hotmail and eBay.

Here are their recommendations based on the study:
- Use a simple vertical layout and vertical aligned labels where possible
- If vertical aligned labels are not possible, use bold left-aligned labels
- When more than one field is placed on a line, ensure that they are designed to look like a single piece of information
- Emphasize the headers if you want users to read them
- If optional fields are needed, make them clear instead of using asterisks for mandatory fields
- Use single field for numbers or postcodes, allow input in various forms
- Let users focus on their task and avoid distractions
- Use real time feedback carefully
- If possible, place tips at the side of the relevant fields
- Provide users with a progress indicator showing them the steps involved to complete the form


  • Web form design guidelines: an eyetracking study Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 02, 2009

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



Web usability has improved, but people are still getting lost

According to Jakob Nielsen, web usability has taken hold in recent years. His tests show that success rates have increased 15% from 2004 to 2009. But people still can find their way around websites. From 2004 to 2009, user failures cased by bad information architecture has only decreased by 4%.


  • IA Task Failures Remain Costly Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - April 20, 2009

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



Bad usability hinder donations

Jakob Nielsen has conducted a large-scale usability test that shows that non-profit organizations lose out donations because their fail answer donor's questions about what the organization stand for are and how they use donations.

Key findings:
- 47% of the usability problems were about people having problems with finding critical information
- 53% were content issues, including unclear or missing information and confusing terms
- On 17% of the sites, the test participant couldn't find where to make a donation
- The participants had few problems in completing the actual donations


  • Donation Usability: Increasing Online Giving to Non-Profits and Charities Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - March 30, 2009

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See also: Navigation (63)  Text (24) 

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