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28% of internet users have tagged or categorized content online

Folksonomies are spreading. A survey from December 2006 has found that 28% of internet users in the US have tagged or categorized content online, such as photos, news stories or blog posts. On a typical day, 7% of the users say they tag or categorize online content.

Taggers are classic early adopters. They are likely to be under 40 and have higher levels of education and income.

The survey was carried out by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.


  • Report on the tagging survey Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 31, 2007

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See also: Information architecture (15)  Research (129) 



Jared Spool on why good content must suck

Hear Jared Spool talk about how to design websites that suck people towards the content they want.

Everyone with the slightest interest in website design should listen to this. Jared is the most knowledgeable usability guy of modern time and in his talk he manages to cover most of his pet topics:

- How people need scent (links containing the words they have in mind) to get to what they are looking for
- How the best links are 7-12 words
- How people don't mind clicking through lots of pages if they just get what they want in the end
- How people love to scroll long pages
- How people love link-rich pages
- How people turn to search engines only when navigation fails

Download the two MP3 files and the presentation slides.


Henrik Olsen - September 27, 2006

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See also: Audio and video (48)  Home pages (9)  Links (19)  Talks and presentations (18) 



Should we organize things into topics or according to usage?

According to Donald Norman, well-structured organization schemes, where hammers are in the hammer section and nails in the nail section, are practical when we want to find things. But when we engage in an activity, we need an activity-centered design, where the nails are right next to the hammer.

"The best solution is to provide both solutions: taxonomies and taskonomies. Some websites organize all their items logically and sensibly in a taxonomic structure, but once a particular item has been selected, taskonomic information appears. For example, if examining a pair of pants, the website might suggest shoes and shirts that match."

"Activity-centered design organizes according to usage: traditional human-centered design organizes according to topic, in isolation, outside the context of real, everyday use. Both are needed."


  • Logic Versus Usage: The Case for Activity-Centered Design Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 25, 2006

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See also: Information architecture (15) 



Web navigation has changed

A click stream study from 2005 show changes in the way we navigate the web. More forms are submitted, more pages are opened in new windows and, consequently, the use of the back button has decreased.

- Navigation by clicking links has decreased slightly from 45.7% to 43.5% in the past 11 years
- Opening new windows has jumped from 0.2% to 10.5%
- Form submission has increased from 4.4% in 1996 to 15.3%
- With the increase in new windows and form submissions, the use of the back button has dropped from 35.7% in 1994 to 14.3%
- 76.5% of all selected links were visible in the browser window at load time
- 23.1% of all links followed were below the visible area
- Most users didn't utilize their entire screen for their browser window (about 160 horizontal 170 vertical pixels were unused)


  • Clickstream Study Reveals Dynamic Web Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 09, 2006

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See also: Research (129) 



Users love link-rich home pages

Clients want their home pages to be simple. This is often translated into "has to hold as few links as possible."

Jared Spool from UIE argues that exposing people to the content of a site enhances simplicity. With a good design, the upper limit of links is much higher than one might think. Sites with up to 700 links on the home page have proven to work very well for its audience.

But populating a page with every possible keyword won't do the trick. The secret is clustering:

"Users look at each cluster and quickly decide whether the cluster is likely to contain their content or not. By focusing on just one or two clusters, the user winnows down their choices to just a handful of links."

If we don't make the clusters right, user won't succeed. Learning how users think about the content requires research, iterative design, and testing.


  • Lifestyles of the Link-Rich Home Pages Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 15, 2006

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  Simplicity vs. capability (7)  Home pages (9) 



Study of breadcrumb navigation

Angela Colter and colleagues have surveyed 4,775 catalog web sites to find out how many implement breadcrumbs and what connector character is used. They then conducted a study with 14 test participants solving tasks at four web-sites that use breadcrumbs.

Some highlights:
- 17% of the web-sites used breadcrumbs
- 47% of those sites used the greater than symbol
- All but one of the participants used the breadcrumbs
- Four used breadcrumbs as a consistent strategy
- Five incorrectly assumed that breadcrumbs indicated either the path they had taken to arrive at the current page or a record of where else on the site they had been
- The users sometimes described the back button as being "safer" to use, because they know what page they came from

They conclude that breadcrumbs are used if a breadcrumb label happens to match what the users is looking for. This suggests that breadcrumbs were not used for orientation or back-tracking, but rather a means of moving forward.


  • Exploring User Mental Models of Breadcrumbs in Web Navigation Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 28, 2006

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See also: Research (129) 



Web navigation is about moving forward

According to Gerry McGovern, the primary purpose of web navigaton is to help people move forward. It's not to tell them where they have been, or where they could have gone.

"The Back button helps us to get back if we want to get back. The global navigation allows us to reach major sections, no matter what part of the website we are on. Your job is not to design for all possible directions someone might want to take. That leads to a cluttered website and it will clutter the mind of and overload the attention of your customers."


  • Web Navigation is About Moving Forward Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 25, 2006

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95) 



Avoid links that scroll to sections of pages

According to Jakob Nielsen, we should avoid links that scroll to sections of a page, since users expect that links will take them to a new page.

Studies have shown that within-page links typically waste far more time than they save because users click back and forth multiple times to review the same material.

If you must use within-page links, tell the user that clicking the link will scroll to the page to the relevant section.

Only for very long pages, such as long alphabetized lists and FAQs, will the time saved be worth the confusion that within-page links can cause. Also, linking to a specific section on a different page is not as bad as using within-page links on a single page, since the users are taken to a new page.

Ideally, create separate pages for everything that serves as a link destination.


  • Avoid Within-Page Links Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - February 25, 2006

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See also: Links (19)  Tips and guidelines (95) 



Alphabetized lists are random lists

"Unless you can be absolutely sure that users will know the exact terms in your list, alphabetical order is just random order."

According to Jared Spool, alphabetized lists work for people's name, states, cities, car models, and teams. But they fall apart for things where users don't know the exact wording. Users must resort to the same behavior they need when links are randomly ordered. They must scan every link to make sure they can see what is relevant and what isn't.

Instead, we should use a divide-and-conquer approach by categorizing the items. Once broken up into small groups, it doesn't matter what the order of the links are.


  • Alphabetized Links are Random Links Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - February 12, 2006

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See also: Information architecture (15)  Sitemaps (2)  Links (19)  Tips and guidelines (95) 



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


  • 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)  Personas (19)  Talks and presentations (18) 


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