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1

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

Henrik Olsen - December 17, 2005

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See also: Help (2) 


 

2

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

Henrik Olsen - December 01, 2005

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See also: Persuasive design (12)  Sections (5)  Web page design (23)  Navigation (44) 


 

3

Online journal on usability studies

The Journal of Usability Studies (JUS) is a peer-reviewed, international, online publication dedicated to promoting and enhancing the practice, research, and education of usability engineering.

The journal aims to provide usability practitioners and researchers with a forum to share:
- Empirical findings and case studies
- Emerging methods and tools
- Reports of good practices in usability engineering
- Approaches and case studies in usability education and training
- Opinions and experiences regarding the practice and education of usability engineering

Links:

  • Journal of Usability Studies

Henrik Olsen - November 23, 2005 - via Usernomics

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See also: Online magazines (3) 


 

4

Usability is more important that aesthetics in the long run

The October 2005 newsletter from HFI is a discussion of how beauty can influence users' overall impression of a product and how to measure the product-emotion relationship.

The newsletter mentions a study by M. Hassenzahl where a MP3 application was evaluated with a variety of different visual designs. They study showed that:
- When participants only looked at the MP3 player, the overall rating of the product was based on its perceived beauty and anticipated usability
- When participants were allowed to use the player, the overall rating of the product was more influenced by participants' experience of using the product

The study suggests that the emotional aspects of a design are important in attracting customers in the first place. However, when the product is judged through usage over time, usability is what matters most.

Links:

  • Is Beauty the new usability attribute?

Henrik Olsen - November 16, 2005

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See also: Usability testing (29)  Visual design (13) 


 

5

Demographics is not critical when recruiting study participants

When recruiting participants for usability testing, field research and the like, candidates experience and behaviour is more important than demographics.

According to Jared Spool, studies of user experience professionals have shown that successful teams have learnt that candidates' previous experience and how they will behave in the study is more important than where they live, how old they are, and how much they earn. You don't need to have someone who is in your target audience. You only need someone who behaves like people in your audience group and is comfortable with the study situation.

Links:

  • Putting Perfect Participants in Every Session

Henrik Olsen - November 13, 2005

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See also: Requirement Analysis (12)  Usability testing (29) 


 

6

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?

Henrik Olsen - October 21, 2005 - via Usernomics

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See also: Navigation (44) 


 

7

Users' expectations of search

Based on a usability test of a system that allows people to search a large set of content Donna Maurer interpreted the users' expectations of search:

- It is better to put more than one word in as one word gives too much stuff
- Adding an extra word gives fewer results
- The first word in the search box is more important than the other words
- If the words make a sensible phrase the search engine should return results for the phrase
- If the words do not make a sensible phrase, the search engine shouldn't look for the phrase.

Links:

  • Regular folks searching

Henrik Olsen - October 14, 2005

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See also: Search (21) 


 

8

Eye-tracking as a supplement to traditional usability tests

SURL have studied how eye-tracking can be used to supplement traditional usability tests. They found that eye-tracking data can be used to better understand how users search the interface for a target and what areas of a page are eye-catching, informative, frequently ignored and distracting.

The study is based on a test of three toy e-commerce sites, which is described in detail in the article.

Links:

  • The article Hotspots and Hyperlinks: Using Eye-tracking to Supplement Usability Testing

Henrik Olsen - August 02, 2005

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See also: Usability testing (29)  Eye-tracking (7)  Web page design (23) 


 

9

Line length and reading performance

A study by SURL examines the effects of line length on reading performance. Twenty colleage-ages students read news articles displayed in 35, 55, 75, or 95 characters per line (cpl) from a computer monitor. Reading rates were found to be fastest at 95 cpl.

Users indicated a strong preference for either short or long line lengths. Some participants reported that they felt like they were reading faster at 35 cpl, although this condition resulted in the slowest reading speed.

Links:

  • The article The Effects of Line Length on Reading Online News

Henrik Olsen - July 22, 2005

Permanent link Comments (2)

See also: Text (14) 


 

10

People use the web to find how-to information

According to Pew Internet and American Life Project 55% of adult American internet users have looked for do-it-yourself information online. 1 in 20 search for help on a typical day.

Looking for how-to information resides in the middle of other common Internet activities in terms of popularity, where:
- 78% research products and services
- 72% read news
- 55% look up how-to information
- 24% bid in online auctions
- 17% visit chat rooms

Links:

  • The report Do-it-yourself Information Online

Henrik Olsen - June 13, 2005

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