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Jakob Nielsen interview by Webdesigner Depot

Webdesigner Depot has been lucky to get an interview with Jakob Nielsen himself.

Among other things, they talk about:

- How recruiting representative users is the only place you shouldn't skimp in a usability test everything else is negotiable and can be done on the cheap.
- That even though some studies have found that many don't use breadcrumbs, Jakob finds them useful because they are lightweight design elements, harmless to those not using them.
- That it's ok with Jakob that designers make hard-to-use artistic websites when they don't serve a utilitarian purpose.


  • Interview with Web Usability Guru, Jakob Nielsen Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 28, 2009

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See also: Interviews (30)  Usability testing (68) 



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: Information architecture (15)  Research (129) 



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: Text (24)  Research (129) 



Left-justify vertical lists and menus

According to Jakob Nielsen, eyetracking studies show that users tend to rapidly move their eyes down the left-hand side of lists (e.g. vertical menus). In order to design vertical list that are easy to scan, Jakob recommend that we should:

- Left-justify the list items so that the user's eyes can move in a straight line. Items that are right-aligned make scanning more difficult.

- Start each list item with the one or two most information-carrying words. People will only read a item if something catches their eyes in the left-most one or two words.

- Avoid using the same few words to start list items, because doing so makes them harder to scan.


  • Right-Justified Navigation Menus Impede Scannability Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - April 29, 2008

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See also: Research (129)  Tips and guidelines (95) 



The evil of dropdown, flyout and pop-up menus

I this podcast, Jared Spool and Brian Christiansen discuss how hiding links in slick dropdown, flyout, or pop-up menus hurts the user experience.

The problem with these menus is that if people are looking for something specific, hiding their options isn't very helpful. Also, many of the menus require us to use awkward movements to make our selections.

So what to do instead? According to Jared, we should help users find what they are looking for by creating home pages and sections with visible options.


  • Usability Tools Podcast: Mouseovers in Navigation Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 25, 2007

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See also: Audio and video (48)  Home pages (9)  Sections (8) 



Jared Spool on how to structure sites with lots of content

In this episode of the UIE Usability Tools podcast, Jared is interviewed about how to use department and store pages to subcategorize sites with lots of content.

Jared talks about:
- How department and store pages help narrow down the content choices for users
- How Department pages help users make confident choices between galleries
- What sites successfully take advantage of department pages
- What common mistakes designers make when implementing department and store pages


  • Usability Tools Podcast: Department and Store Pages Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 30, 2007

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See also: Audio and video (48)  Sections (8)  Site design (14)  Interviews (30) 



Jared Spool on gallery pages

In this second episode of UIE Usability Tools Podcast, Jared Spool is interviewed about UIE's research on gallery pages, that is, pages with lists of links to content.

In the podcast, Jared talks about:
- How galleries help users make confident choices
- What behaviour users exhibit when gallery pages fail them
- How to order links so users can successfully find their content
- Why alphabetized links are often viewed as randomly ordered links
- How to utilize trigger words, the specific words that have meaning to users
-Why longer gallery pages may help users


  • Usability Tools Podcast: Gallery Pages Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 30, 2007

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See also: Audio and video (48)  Sections (8)  Site design (14)  Interviews (30) 



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: Guidelines and Standards (15)  Links (19)  Forms (30) 



How to validate the success of navigation

Card sorting is excellent for finding patterns in how people categorize information. Iain Barker offers a simple and low-cost method for validating proposed classifications schemes.


  • Measuring the Success of a Classification System Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - April 25, 2007

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See also: Card sorting (13) 



Breadcrumbs don't hurt

Despite the fact that breadcrumb trails are often overlooked, Jakob Nielsen recommends their use. Why? Because more people use them and because they don't get in the way of the ones who don't.

Breadcrumbs are unobtrusive and useful:

- They show users their current location in the site hierarchy
- They allow users to backtrack to higher levels
- Though they are often overlooked, they never cause problems in usability tests
- They take up very little space

Jakob Nielsen predicts that people will use breadcrumbs even more in the near future because they're an important navigation tool in Windows Vista.


  • Breadcrumb Navigation Increasingly Useful Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - April 10, 2007

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