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How to encourage user to contribute to online communities

At online communities a tiny minority of users contribute with content, while the great majority lurk in the background.

Jakob Nielsen has some advice on how to encourage more users to contribute:

- Make it easy to contribute, such as rating something by clicking a star rating
- Make users' actions add to the contribution, such as Amazon's "people who bought this book also bought..."
- Let users build their contribution by modifying existing templates instead of having to face a blank page
- Reward users for contributing, but don't encourage people to dominate the community
- Promote quality contributors


  • Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 09, 2006

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4 ways to avoid shopping cart abandonment

According to Anne Holland, research indicates shopping cart abandonment is no longer caused by users being unable to find their way through the check out. Today, it's more a marketing related problem.

She suggests four ways to avoid the problem:
- Promote return/exchange policies by placing a link in the cart reading "Returns Are Easy"
- Post reassuring security icon(s)
- Promote privacy and trust policies by placing a link reading something like "We Value Your Privacy" next to fields asking for personal data
- Remind customers of their abandoned carts by sending an e-mail after it has been abandoned and when it's about to expire


  • Study Data: Absolutely Pitiful Ecommerce Shopping Cart Abandonment Stats -- 4 Ways to Improve Yours Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 21, 2006

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See also: Shopping Carts (9) 



Use transparent messages instead of monolog dialogs

Aza Raskin condemn the use of monolog boxes - dialog boxes where there's nothing one can do but click "OK". Instead, she suggests the use of transparent messages:

"Transparent messages are the brainchild of Jef Raskin. It's simply a large and translucent message that's displayed over the contents of your screen. They fade away when the user takes any action (like typing or moving the mouse). In practice, the message is both noticeable yet unobtrusive. And because the message is transparent, you can see what's beneath it. It's just humane."


  • Monolog Boxes and Transparent Messages Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 14, 2006 - via Usernomics

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See also: Error handling (7)  Web page design (40) 



Interfaces for navigating large data tables

"After forms, data tables are likely the next most ubiquitous interface element designers create when constructing Web applications. Users often need to add, edit, delete, search for, and browse through lists of people, places, or things within Web applications. As a result, the design of tables plays a crucial role in such an application's overall usefulness and usability."

Luke Wroblewski shows a number of interface design solutions that enable users to find their way through large data sets.


  • Refining Data Tables Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 29, 2006

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See also: Web page design (40) 



Use liquid web page layouts and optimize for 1024x768

According to Jakob Nielsen, web pages should use a liquid layout that stretches to the user's current window size. He recommends that we optimize page layouts for 1024x768 pixels, which is currently the most widely used screen size, but that we make sure it works for any resolution from 800x600 to 1280 x1024.

Pages should also work at smaller and bigger sizes. But a less-than-great design is an acceptable compromise. Fewer than half a percent have screen resolutions of 640x480 and users with large screens rarely maximize their browser window.

A liquid design should scale all the way down to the tiny screens found on mobile devices. But mobile services should be designed specifically for use on small screens.


  • Screen Resolution and Page Layout Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 07, 2006

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See also: Web page design (40) 



Do links need to be underlined?

Jared Spool has brought up the good old question about whether links need to be underlined.

He doubts that users are less likely to find what they are looking for at sites where links aren't underlined. People will quickly learn how to spot non-standard links by waving their mouse around to see where the browser gives them "the finger."

But users are trained to click on underlined text. Eyetracking studies show that people dart from underlined text to underlined text in their initial exploration of a page.

If sites have some links underlined and others not, people get confused. Jared concludes:

"We think the visual design element of the underline is not required, but it is cruel to make users work extra hard because you can't decide."


  • Do Links Need Underlines? Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - July 06, 2006

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See also: Links (19) 



Eight usability problems that haven't changed since 1997

Webmonkey has published an excerpt from Jakob Nielsen and Hoa Loranger's new book Prioritizing Web Usability.

In the excerpt, they discuss eight issues that continue to be critical to usable web design:
- Links that don't change color when visited
- Breaking the back button
- Opening new browser windows
- Pop-up windows
- Design elements that look like advertisements
- Violating Web-wide conventions
- Vaporous content and empty hype
- Dense content and unscannable text


  • Excerpt from the book Prioritizing Web Usability Open link in new window
  • The book at Open link in new window
  • The book at Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 20, 2006 - via Usernomics

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See also: Books (47)  Research (129)  Links (19)  Text (24) 



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: Simplicity vs. capability (7)  Home pages (9)  Navigation (63) 



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: Navigation (63) 



How to make users abandon forms

5 ways to make sure that users abandon your forms:
- Ask for information the user doesn't have at their finger tips
- Ask for a lot of information, but don't tell why you need it
- Force users to input data according to how the system wants it
- Provide cryptic error messages that tell users to correct their mistakes, but give no information about what they did wrong
- Split forms up into many segments, but don't give any indication of where users are in the process

I you follow these rules, be sure to overstaff your call center. You're going to need the extra help.


  • 5 Ways To Make Sure That Users Abandon Your Forms Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - April 01, 2006

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See also: Forms (30) 


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