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Contest - Usability Best Practices
Posted 01 August 2003 - 01:37 PM
I am currently working on a large government project and will share here few more suggestions derived from my experience pertaining to usability that might be relevant:
As many of you mentioned, consistent navigation and search feature present on each page are among the most important usability tools we can offer to a website visitor.
Putting together navigation and search results can be even more powerful -- it provides context and eliminates guesswork.
If you have a site search you might want to consider putting together search results and navigation (i.e. bread crumbs or cookie crumbs, depending on your culinary preference). If impossible to add the crumbs navigation to each link in the search results, consider adding the URL. Provided your site's information architecture is decent, seeing what directory the page belongs to, might provide an additional clue as to whether the result is indeed relevant.
English is a very rich and flexible language and this can lead to confusion (trust me, I am Bulgarian :-). On a large site with a lot of diverse content, there are chances that searching for a specific term would yield search results falling under multiple categories. Imagine searching for "bank" AND "deposit" and having no clue which of the result links provides information on bank deposit (as in a financial institution) and which one on the sand deposited at the bank of a river... You get the idea
Another suggestion is providing FAQs. Having the most frequently requested information (make sure to research your log files) in a FAQ list could benefit any user, whether experienced or not. Having the list of the FAQs on the top of the page with jump links to the answers would enable the visitor to see most of the FAQs without scrolling.
Speaking of jump link -- do they provide any link weight to the SEO effort? If so, should they be vallued equally as other links coming from the same site? How to intra-page jump links compare to links from outside?
Mitko @ WebSage
Posted 01 August 2003 - 07:33 PM
I agree with Bill. You will not necessarily get better usability from following a set of prescriptive guidelines. Good article here.
Usability is about meeting the needs of the user. Spend time really understanding the user and their motivations. Then apply the guidelines that best suit your visitors needs.
Edited by peter_d, 01 August 2003 - 11:47 PM.
Posted 01 August 2003 - 09:42 PM
Redundancy is a GOOD thing!
If there are several different ways to get to the same place within your site, people will find their way there however they're most used to doing it.
I find that how people look through websites really depends on when they discovered the web. Each "generation" of web user seems to have their own "intuitive" guidelines. And while those of us who advise web designers on usability issues may have certain suggestions to make (and I find that usability issues are frequently part of the search engine optimization reports that I create for my clients), redundancy can take care of several of those issues at once.
Obviously, there's a point at which one can go too far with that (let's not be silly about this. ) but generally, having several ways to get to the same point - for example: text links on the bottom of the page, graphic links on the side of the page with appropriate alt-text, a search function in a highly visible and easily spotted location, an easily accessible site map, spotlights that explain what links are about in the text of the page, etc. - will make sure that your visitors get where they want to be, in the quickest amount of time for them. And that means more "business" - whether that's subscribers, happy folks who find the information resources they're after quickly, or people who buy the product the site has to offer - for the owner of the website.
Just my 0.02 cents (worth less than half that amount since these are Canadian cents. )
All the best,
Edited by Jodi, 01 August 2003 - 09:51 PM.
Posted 01 August 2003 - 10:32 PM
That's about the best one so far. Thanks, Peter.
The best rule I know about usability is "do not use usability guidelines as a shortcut to thinking".
The UIE article is a pretty good, and I had the excellent fortune to seen Jared Spool and Christine Perfetti from the Usability Interface Engineering group a couple of weeks ago.
Jared Spool talked about the "myths of usability" and we have many of them listed here, like the requirement to always have a search box on a site. Understanding your audience and common sense should be your guides, and not some rule that may have been appropriate to a standalone application built years ago, before multiple thousand page web sites.
For instance, Jared Spool mentioned that they had a viewer look at a page that used more than four different fonts, and the user did not blow up.
I'm curious as to how many of the rules listed so far in this thread can actually be matched up with real research.
Jodi, I like the redundancy suggestion. Welcome to the forums.
Posted 01 August 2003 - 10:51 PM
I woudn't call any of the items in this thread rules. I would think of them as guidelines.
With any given methodology, there are always good reasons to break from the norm. As long as your users can easily (and fairly intuitively) complete the actions to reach the goals you have for your site, it's usable!
(BTW- love the avatar Bill!)
Posted 01 August 2003 - 10:58 PM
I agree with Scottie on the rule thing, incidentally. That's why it's impossible to find a software program out there that just *does* SEO for you.
There simply needs to be a human element in there to determine what works best for a given site's potential audience. Not all of these suggestions will work for every site. It takes a knowledgeable person to know which will work best, and it also takes a very patient person to negotiate effectively with an oftentimes quite sensitive web designer, to get those changes implemented.
All the best,
Posted 01 August 2003 - 11:52 PM
Rules, guidelines, proclaimations, the name really isn't material. The basic concepts behind usability are what is important. Many of these guidelines are appropriate only in certain circumstances. Some things work well in certain circumstances, and others don't.
Peter's suggestion to "never let a guideline become a shortcut to thinking" is spot on target.
Posted 02 August 2003 - 03:38 AM
For example, I'm very open to interesting ways of navigation and display on "artsy" or visually interesting sites.
But don't you dare get too "interesting" with the shopping cart program - after I give my credit card number over to a website I do not want to see "something interesting and cool". I want to see my purchase processed in a "normal" and secure way. You can vary it a bit and make it look nice, but people usually don't like "cute" when it comes to their finances being handled by strangers.
I run several sites where the majority of visitors are not very web-literate (is that a real phrase?) and varying from what they consider to be normal usability and design does not get them interested or excited, it gets them confused and angry.
I once got more than 40 complaints in a single day because I changed the name "Home" to "Main" for a button. These people really do not want to learn a new way of doing things (even if it's better) just for one site.
On the other hand, my personal (not corporate) website is a excercise in creative anarchy and I like it that way - it also suits the tone of the site and it's visitors.
Think of a website like a book - you can get as creative as you want with the layout, content, pictures, etc, but people (in the west, anyway) really do expect to see the binding on the left, the table of contents at the front, page numbers in order, index at the back if it's reference, etc.
Posted 02 August 2003 - 06:56 AM
Gulp.. I think me needs to too!
Uh-oh... I think I need to take a look at some of my forms. :o
And YES Jill! I HATE it when that happens!!
Original Post ========
QUOTE (Jill @ Jul 24 2003, 05:52 PM)
Make sure your forms have cookies or whatever it is you need to do to keep your data intact if you have to click away for a minute while you're filling it out.
Posted 02 August 2003 - 03:59 PM
I count 100 tips - I can't believe we came up with a round number like that...but I guess any thing is possible with this talented group (or more likely I missed a few).
I tried to put the author's names with the tips - in some cases if you have a bunch of tips (like Braggadocchio or Scottie) the attribute came at the bottom of a grouping of tips.
You can see the latest list of tips at this temporary page:
Remember this is not the article - this is just a reiteration of the tips in one long hard to read, difficult to use list. (Yes, ironic isn't it...)
The article and the prizes will be announced after the article is written and published in Jill's world famous newsletter.
For now, you might look over the list for errors (I was trying to do this in a marathon session so I guarantee there are errors) and contact me about them.
I apologize in advance for errors or ommissions - I assure you they were done out of fatique. Don't take any mistakes personally. Just tell me about them and I'll fix it.
I am absolutely thrilled with the response and the quality of the tips. Oh - if you want to privately nominate someone for an award, I'm all ears.
If you look over the list and want to add more tips, I think we can run the contest for another week. Add more tips in the forum and I'll add them to the list.
Edited by HorseCove, 02 August 2003 - 05:49 PM.
Posted 02 August 2003 - 04:08 PM
Posted 02 August 2003 - 04:08 PM
For an ecommerce site it can be especially helpful to show all of the product categories and associated details on a central page.
Posted 02 August 2003 - 04:23 PM
I only got in on it late in the game but there certainly are LOTS of folks here who have fantastic ideas and information to impart. Thanks to everyone that participated! I've been doing this a while, but there's always more to learn!
Posted 02 August 2003 - 04:42 PM
Jodi, thank you for your kind words. This has been a fun contest AND it's not over yet! Feel free to contribute.
Welcome to the forum Jodi! We're glad you found us.
Edited by HorseCove, 02 August 2003 - 04:55 PM.