Are we there yet? Effects of delay on user perceptions of websites
Speed of download is not a new problem for web designers. Weinberg (2000) estimated that $4 billion in potential e-commerce revenue is lost each year because of download delays. But how, specifically, do delays figure into user frustration and site abandonment?
Design elements for great web pages: readability, browsability, searchability plus assistance
In order to be useful, any information must be readable, browsable, and searchable. With increasing size and complexity of today's information systems, interactive user assistance is becoming a necessary feature as well. This essay outlines these qualities so you, as an information system manager, can incorporate them into your products and services.
Design for performance: analysis of download times for page elements suggests ways to optimise
Need help figuring out how to reduce the time it takes to download your web pages? Find out how to cut download times and improve resource utilisation by following the design advice here, gleaned from optimising efforts at high-volume sites.
Don't fight over your home page
"Most organisations spend most of their design time focusing on the homepage, often in tense negotiations with different departments, each jockeying for prominent positions in the global navigation. It’s understandable, as the homepage is the most coveted piece of real estate on your site. So how do you keep everyone happy? It can definitely be an exercise in compromise, but here we offer some suggestions."
(Laurence Veale - IQ Content)
Fast-downloading websites are still important
People are impatient on the web. They are function and task orientated. They want to get things done as quickly as possible. The average person is still accessing the web over a 56 KB modem. You should therefore have a major focus on 'light' webpages if you want to increase reader-satisfaction.
Home page goals
"Home pages are anxiety-inducing for companies. The home page is your first impression. And like the old saying goes, you only get one chance. So home pages themselves have a unique set of design goals. Any home page has four main goals."
(Derek Powazek - A List Apart)
How did you get here? Designing for visitors who don't enter through the home page
One of the most overlooked aspects of designing a website is how users get to it. Separate factions are often devoted to promoting, designing, and maintaining a website, and the lack of communication and involvement can lead to apathy or confusion. Too frequently is it assumed that visitors are knowledgeable about the company and website, and that they enter through the home page. False assumptions about visitor entry can plague even a well-planned, well-designed site.
Improving web page loading
When your web pages load, you can't afford to let people be bored by a blank page at the outset. This article gives some tips on how to avoid common page loading problems and give users that valuable information they want even as more downloading takes place.
Introduction to eyetracking: see through your users' eyes
"Eyetracking can show which parts of your user interfaces users see and which parts seem to be invisible to them--not just by observing users and gathering qualitative data, but also by analyzing their gaze plots and other quantitative data."
(Matteo Penzo - UXmatters)
Lifestyles of the link-rich home pages
"Nobody starts their design with the objective, 'We need our home page to be as complex as we can possibly make it.' On the contrary, everybody wants to build simple designs. Yet, somewhere along the line, simplicity translated into 'Provide as few links on the home page as possible.' Dramatically increasing your content's transparency on your home page is not a simple thing to do well. It takes research and experimentation. You need to understand the content your users desire. You need to know how to organize the links into the right clusters. And, you need to have a process that permits you to make the transition through multiple iterations."
(Jared M Spool - User Interface Engineering)
Printing the web
Despite predictions to the contrary, it doesn't seem that the advent of networked information sharing has reduced human consumption of paper. In fact, given the amount of printouts modern offices and homes produce, one is inclined to say that even more paper is generated today than ever before. This article looks at designing web pages with printing in mind.
Quantitatively test the effectiveness of your home page
"Staff should be able to confidently, quickly and accurately step from the home page of the intranet towards the information they require. If staff can't achieve this without resorting to search, the home page needs to be redesigned. As discussed in Full site redesign? Start by addressing the home page, many home pages fail because they are exclusively devoted to exposing new and useful content. Both of these have a place on a home page, but they should be kept in proportion with its role as a gateway to all site content. This article explains a quick and effective technique for assessing whether your home page is an effective gateway to site content."
(Iain Barker - Step Two Designs)
Screen resolution and page layout
"Optimize Web pages for 1024x768, but use a liquid layout that stretches well for any resolution, from 800x600 to 1280x1024."
(Jakob Nielsen - Alertbox)
Text on websites
Website text should be clear, links should stand out, and all text should scale according to user preferences.
The best of eyetrack III: what we saw when we looked through their eyes
News websites have been with us for about a decade, and editors and designers still struggle with many unanswered questions: Is homepage layout effective? What effect do blurbs on the homepage have compared to headlines? When is multimedia appropriate? Are ads placed where they will be seen by the audience?
(Steve Outing, Laura Ruel - Poynter Institute)
The ten most violated homepage design guidelines
There are ten usability mistakes that about two-thirds of corporate websites make. The prevalence of these errors alone warrants attention, especially since they appear on sites with significant investment in usable design.
The truth about download time
It makes sense that a slow loading page is unusable. We know that if a page takes 2 hours to load, chances are people will abandon their tasks. But when does download time go from too slow to fast enough?
Using a "straw man" for page layout design
Designing the page layouts for a new or redesigned intranet can be complex. One of the most difficult aspects is creating the first layout. Starting with an empty screen, you need to determine what will go on each page and where it will go. Using a strawman design - a design that is created with the intent of discarding it - can help to overcome many of the difficulties in the design process.
Visible narratives: understanding visual organisation
Visual designers working on the web need an understanding of the medium in which they work, so many have taken to code. Many have entered the usability lab. But what about the other side? Are developers and human factors professionals immersed in literature on gestalt and color theory?
- When it comes to home pages, it's polite to stare
Eyetrack researchers showed 46 people a variety of mock news websites and followed their eyes as they moved along the pages. Here's what the research found.
As the page scrolls
Users say they don't like to scroll. As a result, many designers try to keep their web pages short. But one of the most significant findings of our research on web-site usability is 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.
Examining tolerance for online delays
The 10th WWW User Survey reported that speed, or taking too long to download pages, was the third major problem with the Internet reported by users (GVU, 1998). Since problems with delays are expected to persist, the effects of delays on aspects of website usability remain an important concern and are the focus of this study.
Home page real estate allocation
On average, sample sites evenly distributed valuable screen space between content, navigation, fluff, blank areas, and system overhead. Areas of user interest should occupy more than the current 39%.
Location of the scrollbar
Are scrollbars located close enough to where users typically work with a website or list box to encourage the fastest possible use? Studies at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have shown that many users preferred to have the website content index located in the right panel because it was closer to the traditional right-placed scrollbar.
Navigate on the right? The jury is still out.
In a recent HFI newsletter, Bob Bailey presented a case for moving web site navigation to the right-hand side of the page. The evidence he cited was a study by Kellener, Barnes and Lingard on the effects of scroll bar orientation plus his own unpublished research on behalf of the National Cancer Institute. I am not certain that users spend most of their time moving between the scroll bar and the navigation fields with a mouse.
Optimal line length
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) .
Serving citizens’ needs: minimising online hurdles to accessing government information (PDF)
With the rapid spread of the Internet across society, government institutions are taking advantage of digital technology to distribute materials to citizens. Is merely having a website enough, or are there certain usability considerations site creators must keep in mind to assure efficient public access to online materials? This project looked at typical people's ability to locate various types of content online, in particular, their ability to find tax forms on the web. Findings suggest that people look for content in a myriad of ways, and there is considerable variance in how long people take to complete this online task. Users are often confused by the ways in which content is presented to them. In this paper, two common sources of confusion in users' online experiences with locating tax forms online are distinguished: (1) URL confusion and (2) page design layout. Ways are also suggested to decrease these two sources of frustration, yielding less exasperating and more productive user experiences.
Testing web sites with eye-tracking
"We asked users to look for specific information on the site. When deciding which link to click, users typically looked first in the center area, then in the left panel, then in the right column. Users spent an average of 11 seconds on each of the pages we tested."
(Will Schroeder - User Interface Engineering)
Web page layout: a comparison between left- and right-justified site navigation menus
The usability of two web page layouts was directly compared: one with the main site navigation menu on the left of the page, and one with the main site navigation menu on the right. Sixty-four participants were divided equally into two groups and assigned to either the left- or the right-hand navigation test condition. Using a stopwatch, the time to complete each of five tasks was measured. The hypothesis that the left-hand navigation would perform significantly faster than the right-hand navigation was not supported. Instead, there was no significant difference in completion times between the two test conditions. This research questions the current leading web design thought that the main navigation menu should be left justified.
Web site layout
Bob Bailey from Human Factors International considers three sets of research on web page layout and concludes that the layout most preferred by users, the fluid (or variable width) layout, is the one implemented least often by designers.
- Where's the search? Re-examining user expectations of web objects
"In 2001, Bernard determined that users were able to form a schema for the location of web objects on informational websites. The current study investigates whether users' expectations have changed since the 2001 study. Changes were found in the expected location of the site search engine, internal links, and advertisements."
(A Dawn Shaikh, Kelsi Lenz - Usability News)
Using eyetracking to compare web page designs: a case study
"A proposed design for the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Web site was evaluated against the original design in terms of the ease with which the right starting points for key tasks were located and processed. This report focuses on the eye tracking methodology that accompanied other conventional usability practices used in the evaluation. Twelve ASCO members were asked to complete several search tasks using each design. Performance measures such as click accuracy and time on task were supplemented with eye movements which allowed for an assessment of the processes that led to both the failures and the successes. The report details three task examples in which eye tracking helped diagnose errors and identify the better of the two designs (and the reasons for its superiority) when both were equally highly successful. Advantages and limitations of the application of eye tracking to design comparison are also discussed."
(Agnieszka Bojko - Journal of Usability Studies)