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Navigation Stress Test

The idea behind Keith Instone's Navigation Stress Test is to ask about some basic concerns users often have upon arriving at web pages:

- Where am I?
- What's here?
- Where can I go?

Randomly pick out low-level pages from the site you want to test, pretend you are entering the site for the first time at this page, and try to answer the questions. In Keith's article you'll find detailed instructions on how to perform the test.


  • The article Navigation Stress Test Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 22, 2003

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See also: Expert reviews (11) 



How people scan web pages

The usability consultancy UIE conducted an eyetracking study to find out how people scan a typical three column web page layout.

Some major findings:
- The users usually scanned in the centre area first, then the left area and then the right column
- The users would only investigate the left and right column when looking for additional information
- The users quickly learned to look where they would expect to find relevant content and avoid areas which was unimportant to their current task, such as banner ads
- The users would only re-evaluate their scan strategies when they detected changes in the layout of pages
- The users where able to determine if surrounding content was relevant before looking directly at it, suggesting that peripheral vision plays a central role in the interaction with the web pages
- Ads attracted users only when they related to the current task


  • The article Testing Web Sites with Eye-Tracking Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 21, 2003

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See also: Research (129)  Web page design (40)  Eye-tracking (14) 



Listening labs vs. think aloud tests

If you heard about Mark Hurst, you probably also heard about listening labs. In his October 1, 2003 newsletter, Mark explains the how and why of the method.

Listening labs is Mark's version of the traditional think-aloud test. But instead of predefining tasks for the users to conduct, you give them tasks on-the-fly based on what they want to do on the site. In this way your test will not only tell you if users can do what you want them to, but also if the product can do what the users want to do.


  • The article Four Words to Improve User Research Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 01, 2003

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See also: Usability testing (68) 



First Rule of Usability? Don't Listen to Users

In his August 5, 2001 Alertbox, Jakob Nielsen writes about an old rule of usability, which I often hear myself preaching:

"To design an easy-to-use interface, pay attention to what users do, not what they say. Self-reported claims are unreliable, as are user speculations about future behavior."

Asking people about their opinion of a product


  • The article First Rule of Usability? Don't Listen to Users Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 14, 2003

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See also: User research (23) 



Critique of Nielsen/Normann Group's report Usability Return on Investment

Peter Merholtz and Scott Hirsch take a closer look at Nielsen/Normann Group's report Usability Return on Investment. Though a number of the cases in the report are solid and the report provides some valuable usability metrics, Merholtz and Hirsch states that the methodologies used are so fundamentally flawed that "


Henrik Olsen - August 03, 2003

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See also: Cost-justification and ROI (27) 



Objections against user-centred design

Introducing a user-centred design approach in an organisation can sometimes be difficult. According to Jesse James Garrett, some of the most common objections are:

- We know our users - they're just like us.
- We know our users - we've done all this market research.
- All we have to do is follow this list of guidelines.
- The interface is trivial compared to the technical work we need to do.
- It takes experts to understand user behavior. We don't have that kind of money.
- It doesn't take experts to understand user behavior. We'll figure it out as we go.
- We'll fix it in QA.
- We can't make room for it in the schedule.

As a result, "Most Web sites are not designed. They are, at best, contrived - roughly patched together using a mix of half-understood guidelines, imitations of approaches taken by other sites, and personal preferences masquerading as "common sense""


  • The article All Those Opposed - Making the case for user experience in a budget-conscious climate Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - July 28, 2003

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See also: Implementing user-centred design (9) 



Personas and the customer decision-making process

The Q3 2003 issue of GUUUI features a case study showing how the use of personas can help us capture the nature of online customers and design for their needs and concerns, as they progress through the customer decision-making process.


Henrik Olsen - July 01, 2003

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See also: Cases and Examples (28)  Personas (19) 



Most difficult part of user experience work

What's the most difficult part of UX work? Very simple: changing the organization. More in the column.


  • Read the full column Open link in new window

Mars Hurst - June 20, 2003

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See also: Implementing user-centred design (9) 



Personas according to Kim Goodwin

Personas are sets of representative user archetypes we can use to help guide us in design decisions. Director of Design at Cooper, Kim Goodwin, has written two excellent articles on what personas are and how to create them.

Some highlights:
- Start with the right kind of research, such as observations and interviews of users
- Focus on the information that is critical for design, such as workflow, behaviour patterns, goals, environment, and attitudes of the persona
- Avoid false precision, which has no evidence in your research - Keep your personas to the minimum number required to illustrate key goals and behaviour patterns
- Add life to personas and describe them in narrative form, but don't get caught up in personal details


  • Perfecting Your Personas Open link in new window
  • Getting from Research to Personas: Harnessing the Power of Data Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 16, 2003

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See also: Personas (19) 



How search query analysis can help us understand users

At Martin Belam's personal web-site, you'll find some very interesting articles on his search query analysis of the BBCi website. His findings shows us how such analysis can help us shape better interactions with websites.

Some of his major findings:
- Over 80% of the users make unique searches that never make the top 500 searches
- 1 in 12 searches are misspelled
- 1 in 5 attempts to use advanced search fail
- URLs make up around 3% of searches
- 36% of searches consisted of just one word, 35% two words, 16% contained 3 words

According to Belam, we can use such findings to:
- Discover misspellings, synonyms, non-conventional naming, URLs, and searches with few descriptive words and leverage this knowledge to provide the best possible content available within search results
- Spot popular content to be promoted more prominently and what non-existent content to provide
- Verify navigational labels against terms used by the visitors


  • The article How Search Can Help You Understand Your Audience Open link in new window
  • The article A Day In The Life Of BBCi Search Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 23, 2003

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See also: Web traffic analysis (12)  Search (27) 


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