10 March, 2011

User Experience Commandments

I was discussing some UI concepts with a buddy in California when I uncovered this gem of a site on Web Design: 10 Usability Tips Based on Research Studies.

Cameron Chapman refers to these as tips, but some of these are way more important: veritable commandments of interface design.

Here are my comments on these commandments / insightful advice or Tips that need clarification:

Tip 1: Forget the "Three-Click Rule" 
Old theory (well, 2001):
The idea that users will get frustrated if they have to click more than three times to find a piece of content on your website has been around for ages. 
Today's Common Sense:
The focus, then, shouldn’t be on reducing the number of clicks to some magically arrived number, but rather on the ease of utility...... - don’t let the arbitrary three-click rule stop you. 


Tip 2: Enable Content Skimming By Using an F-Shaped Pattern
Analyses the ‘Heat Maps’ of user attention. Either the ‘Google Golden Triangle’ - most clicks are in the top left and a couple on the right hand side (The right hand side is where Google makes their money, of course!).


Example of Google Heat Map

Looking at this heat map, one wonders why anyone puts anything on the lower right hand side of their side – I suppose to look balanced.

Jakob Nielsen, that guru of web design, whose own site now looks Neolithic in design discusses an F shaped pattern.


More on this research at www.useit.com/eyetracking.


Tip 3: Speed Up Your Website
Microsoft’s analysis on their search engine, Bing, showed a correlation between website speed and satisfaction, revenue generated per user and clicking speed.

To get a handle on your site’s availability and speed, I used Webmetrics (Arthur's tip: they have a free trial). See also this case study that I conducted with them on the impact of moving to the cloud on page performance. (Declaration of bias: I used to work for Webmetrics)



Tip 4: Make Your Content Easily Readable
people only read 28% of the text on a web page and decreased the more text there is on the page.



Tip 5: Don’t Worry About "The Fold" and Vertical Scrolling

Hmm, this research is incomplete in my opinion. Cameron links to better article: The myth of the page fold: evidence from user testing.

In my opinion, content the above the fold must be interesting and engaging to warrant more browsing FULL STOP / PERIOD.

People would rather scroll down a page or two to find stuff, rather than having to click on yet another link and wait for another page to load.

So DON’T cram ALL your content above the fold on every page.

Example: if you have a long article to publish, it is much preferable to have the article all on one page, rather than break it across 3 pages. (Don’t you hate newspapers when they do this – it really hinders skim reading!)



TIP 6: Place Important Content on the Left of a Web Page



OK, this advice is correct, but again, doesn’t go deep enough. YES, put your important on the left (doh!), but web users have become so familiar with the 3 column model of websites that they zone in on the middle 50% of any website.

  • Left hand column is 15% wide and contains navigation and then ads
  • Middle column is 60% wide and contains the meaty content
  • Right hand column is 15% and contains ads exclusively.
So, my advice is to focus on the first paragraphs in your middle column – we’re back to the F-shaped Pattern above.


Tip 7: Whitespace of Text Affects Readability

Some obvious advice and some less obvious advice – see the post for the details - I won't cut and paste someone else's content verbatim.


Tip 8: Small Details Make a Huge Difference
…..how removing a button and adding a clear error message to avoid user errors in a checkout process increased revenue by $300 million in just a year. The first month witnessed a 45% additional sales attributed to the revision of the checkout process.
If you’re a start-up, there are SOOO many ways to improve any given site. It’s difficult to know where to start-up – you just gotta plunge in I guess…..



Tip 9: Don’t Rely on Search as a Crutch to Bad Navigation
Search, in this context, means search within a site not Google / Yahoo / Bing. Doh - obvious



Tip 10: Your Home Page Isn’t As Important as You Think

People deep link to you and your site.

Therefore, a higher focus on landing pages versus your home page can get you more bang for your buck in terms of conversion and user-retention opportunities.

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