Posts filed under ‘usability’

Nielsen and initial text

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox reviews a test of how well users understand the first 11 characters of a website’s links and headlines.

“Why test text that’s so severely truncated? Because online reading is often dominated by the F-pattern. That is, people read the first few listed items somewhat thoroughly — thus the cross-bars of the “F” — but read less and less as they continue down the list, eventually passing their eyes down the text’s left side in a fairly straight line. At this point, users see only the very beginning of the items in a list.”

Participants were shown truncated (11 character) links, one at a time, and were asked to predict what they’d find if they clicked on the link – they had  the site’s name and a brief site description for additional context. Then particpants were given a task and asked to pick the relevant link from a list of 10 truncated links, 9 of which were distracters.

He cites a Directgov example of a page title/link, Working while you study: paying tax, as performing badly.

So, some thoughts:

  1. I’d definitely agree with front loading links and titles to get the keywords up front, and advise colleagues to do this. But surely users scan, looking for relevancy and context, so how useful is this test?
  2. In the Directgov example there are three concepts:
    • working
    • studying
    • tax

OK, it is a bit complicated, but the usefulness of the article is about the context of all three – do you have to pay tax when your working but studying too. I don’t think there’s a quick fix, but clearly the most important context is studying. So here’s my suggestion:

Student tax – do you need to pay if you work?

Any better suggestions?

Advertisements

11 April 2009 at 21:52 Leave a comment

Search usability

Shari Thurow has recently blogged on Understanding search usability 1 and 2. I was expecting something on designing search interfaces for usability. Rather, Thorow focuses on the message that optimising the search experience is much more than traditional SEO and should take account of users’ search behaviour.

Thurow argues that search usability is misunderstood by a range of new media disciplines and aims to dispel misconceptions around the use of usability studies, focus groups and web analytics. She argues that key to understanding SEO and web site usability are the human factors. “Why do people do what they do before and after they arrive on your web site? By objectively observing target audience members and carefully analyzing their search behavior, web site owners can improve their web sites.”

Thurow outlines Marcia Bates’ concept of berrypicking – searching is not a linear behavior, rather it comprises a wide variety of behaviors including, but not limited, to: querying, refining, expanding, browsing/surfing, pogo-sticking, foraging, scanning and reading. So users’ berrypicking behaviour needs to be recognised in designing more effective search interfaces.

“The term “search usability” addresses all search behaviors on a single web site, not only querying behavior, and not only browsing behavior. A user-friendly, search-friendly web site accommodates berrypicking behavior and delivers searchers to the information they desire as quickly and easily as possible.”

Search usability needs to incorporate not only the usability of the query interface (search box and results pages etc.) but also ensuring sites are search-friendly (rather than purely search-engine friendly).

“The term “search usability” addresses all search behaviors on a single web site, not only querying behavior, and not only browsing behavior. A user-friendly, search-friendly web site accommodates berrypicking behavior and delivers searchers to the information they desire as quickly and easily as possible.”

So it is important to:

  • Identify types of search behaviour
  • Understand how these search behaviours are all related
  • Design a web site that addresses all or most of these search behaviors, by understanding the searcher’s experience as an objective observer.

Thurow advises remembering three things:

  1. You are NOT the user
  2. Even if a user fits a profile, persona, or role, a user is not objective or accurate about evaluating his own behavior
  3. Users are not always right

So Thurow concludes that “Search usability is a complex subject. There are many types of search behaviors, and plenty of elements on a web page that need to be formatted in such a way to accommodate these behaviors.” I particularly liked her point that “You are here” cues are very important. When users click on a link from web search, they are likely to land in the middle of the site. So good label to help searchers orientate and form a mental model of the site are important in instilling confidence.

31 January 2008 at 10:56 Leave a comment


Categories

December 2017
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Twitter Updates

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.