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Fluid vs. fixed-sized web page layouts

In a study from 2001 SURL examined differences between fluid and fixed-sized left-justified and centred layouts of multi-column web pages. They found no significant differences between the layouts in terms of search accuracy, task completion time, or search efficiency.

But significant subjective differences were found that favoured the fluid layout. Participants stated that they perceived the fluid layout as being best suited for reading and finding information and that the fluid layout looked the most professional. The left-justified layout was the least preferred.

The layouts where tested with viewable screen widths of both 770 and 1006 pixels.


  • The article What is the Best Layout for Multiple-Column Web Pages? Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 22, 2003

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See also: Research (129) 



Optimizing entry pages

According to Jeff Lash, often more than 50% of a web site's visitors come directly into relevant pages through links from other sites, search engines and emails. Such entry pages should be designed with first-time visitors in mind.

"At a basic level, this means informing them of what the site is, what section they are in, and what tasks they can accomplish. At a more in-depth level, this entails providing related pages or supplemental information, establishing credibility through copywriting and branding, and displaying privacy and security notices if appropriate."

"Internal debates where managers fight for home page links on the public Web site may very well be fruitless. More attention needs to be paid not just to understanding how users are getting to your site, but what their entry and referring pages are."


  • How did you get here? - Designing for visitors who don't enter through the home page Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 09, 2003

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95) 



Optimal line length on monitors

Dr. Bob Bailey has looked at the literature about optimal line length when reading from a monitor: "What can we conclude when users are reading prose text from monitors? Users tend to read faster if the line lengths are longer (up to 10 inches). If the line lengths are too short (2.5 inches or less) it may impede rapid reading. Finally, users tend to prefer lines that are moderately long (4 to 5 inches)."


  • The article Optimal Line Length: Research Supporting Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 01, 2003

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See also: Research (129)  Text (24) 



Usability Myths Need Reality Checks

Will Schroeder looks at some common Usability myths that have cemented themselves into our profession's foundation and started questioning how they got there.


  • UIE - Usability Myths Need Reality Checks Open link in new window

Tim Lucas - March 23, 2003

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See also: Research (129)  Navigation (63)  Usability testing (68) 



Scrolling is faster that paging

SURL has examined the use of paging vs. scrolling in reading passages of text. The study showed that that it took the participants significantly longer to read text split into multiple pages compared to full text layouts, where they had to scroll.

"Participants stated that they found the Paging condition to be "too broken up," and that they had to "go back and forth" quite a bit to search for information. It is possible then, that for searching as well, viewing more of the document on a single screen facilitated easier scanning."


  • The article The Impact of Paging vs. Scrolling on Reading Online Text Passages Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - February 27, 2003

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See also: Navigation (63)  Research (129) 



How to design print-friendly pages

In the article, Printing the Web, James Kalbach provides 10 guidelines on how to design print-friendly pages:

1. Remove navigation
2. Remove or change graphical ads
3. Use relative page widths
4. Use serif fonts
5. Add citation information
6. Remove dark backgrounds
7. Write out URLs
8. Display the print-friendly version before printing
9. Collate all information (e.g. parts of an article) into the final print version
10. Ensure that colour coding isn't required to understand content

In the article you'll also find advice on where to learn how use style sheets (CSS) and XSL to control printing formats.


  • The article Printing the Web Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - February 09, 2003

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95) 



Primer on visual design

Luke Wroblewski has written a nice primer on visual design of web pages, which condenses the core principles of functional aesthetics.

There is too little talk about visual design among interaction designers and information architects though it's an important aspect of usability. If you want to learn more, read Kevin Mullet and Darrel Sano's book Designing Visual Interfaces.


Henrik Olsen - January 28, 2003

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See also: Primers (14)  Visual design (19) 



How to layout news pages

A study that addressed the question of how a news page should be presented showed that users prefer news listings with short abstracts.

In the study, users where asked to locate specific information within news articles with three different layouts:
1. A layout with full news text on one page
2. A layout with link titles and abstracts
3. A layout with link titles only

While the study showed no statistical difference in search time across the three presentation types, the layout with link titles and abstracts was preferred by the users. It was perceived most positively in terms of ease of finding information, being visually pleasing, promoting comprehension, and looking professional. The layout with full text was the least preferred.


  • The article Reading Online News: A Comparison of Three Presentation Formats Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 15, 2002

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See also: Research (129) 



Scrolling may be the best approach for users

Users say they don't like to scroll. As a result, many designers try to keep their web pages short. But a study conducted by UIE showed that users are perfectly willing to scroll. However, they'll only do it if the page gives them strong clues that scrolling will help them find what they're looking for.

Short pages don't help users: "One criticism of long web pages is that they hide some information, forcing users to scroll. Short pages may avoid this potential problem by showing more (or all) of an individual page, but the information is still hidden - on other pages."


  • The article As the Page Scrolls Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 05, 2002

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See also: Navigation (63)  Research (129) 



Where should you put common web elements?

Michael Bernard has conducted two studies, which sought to better understand users' expectations concerning the location of common objects on web sites and e-commerce sites.

Some of the findings show that people expect:
- Links back to the front page to be located top-left of a page
- Internal links to be placed along the left side and external links along the right
- Shopping cart, account and help to be located along the top-right side
- Login to be placed top-left


  • The article Developing Schemas for the Location of Common Web Objects Open link in new window
  • The article Examining User Expectations for the Location of Common E-Commerce Web Objects Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 10, 2002

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See also: Search (27)  Navigation (63)  Links (19)  Shopping Carts (9)  Research (129) 

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