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Design questions with the user in mind


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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 10 October 2002 - 04:16 PM

This nifty checklist will help you understand your visitors and make improvements that will benefit their experience - which in turn could benefit your bank account or traffic numbers!

http://psychology.wi...eb/position.htm

The graphical display of where users are accustomed to looking for things is interesting. How many times have you gone to a site, looked for the login area, or shopping cart area and not found it because it's not where you think it should be based on your experience with a hundred other websites?

There's a lot of info here. Have fun!

Kim

#2 sanity

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Posted 28 October 2002 - 03:27 PM

Some great food for thought there. Thanks Kim!

It always amuses me when developers want to be "cutting edge" and place elements in non-traditional spots just to be different. :roll:

#3 nicebloke

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Posted 28 October 2002 - 04:13 PM

I recently watched somebody (who surfs a lot, but does not work on the web) look at this page for well over 30 seconds without finding the 'book' button. I ended up pointing out where it was. I was quite shocked.

#4 sanity

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Posted 28 October 2002 - 04:53 PM

I can see why NiceBloke - there's far too much info on the page.

#5 drdavid

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Posted 28 October 2002 - 05:51 PM

I must respectfully disagree with Sanity's statement that there is "too much information" on the RyanAir page. There is too much "action" on the page -- the flashing discount button on the right side and the annoying scrolling text at the top, for example, but otherwise it's a fairly well-balanced page.

I think the reason it's hard to find the "book now" button is because it's in the top title bar, a place many people have conditioned themselves not to look, since it's usually only the title and slogan of a business.

Of course, I actually LIKE a lot of information on a page -- that's what I'm looking for when I'm online. I've been told more than once that one of our sites -- click here to see it -- has too much information on a page, but considering that the other option is to make it look like every other shopping site on the web, and make a visitor drill several layers deep to find an item -- I think it's got "just the right amount" of info.

The Wichita psychology information about item-placement on websites is great info, Kim. Thanks for posting it.

#6 sanity

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Posted 28 October 2002 - 05:58 PM

Perhaps what I should have said was there are too many options. But then I'm the opposite of you David - I like more sparse pages. :)

I do agree that there is too much "action" on the right side.

Sophie

#7 peter_d

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Posted 28 October 2002 - 08:37 PM

Stereos are easy to work

They have a common set of limited functions. If you want to dig deeper, pull out the manual. You don't need every option available immediately.

I think the key to effective design is to provide the right information at the right time. Presenting too many options immediately is giving too much information at the wrong time. The user becomes overwhelmed and confused unless they are prepared to wrestle with the interface. Some will, but I suspect those people are in the minority.

#8 sanity

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Posted 28 October 2002 - 08:45 PM

The user becomes overwhelmed and confused unless they are prepared to wrestle with the interface. Some will, but I suspect those people are in the minority.

Agree 100% I'd suggest the majority will just move on to the next site.

#9 cre8pc

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 09:05 AM

The Wichita psychology information about item-placement on websites is great info, Kim. Thanks for posting it.


You're most welcome, and I was happy to see the discussion from each of you. I tend to be extremely content oriented when I build pages for my site or some clients whose sites have a lot to "say". It's a constant worry that these "busy" pages be easily scanned or navigated so as not to frustrate users.

Kim

#10 drdavid

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 12:25 PM

That was one of the first things I noticed when I first found your site, Kim... lots of words packed onto the home page. Perhaps it's because I've been on a dialup my entire Internet life, but I don't like having to click to new pages more than absolutely necessary. Which means I want to be presented lots of choices from one page. Which means I like the way your pages are laid out, full of content.

We made a conscious decision to make HerbShop.com's home page, and the navbars of all pages, be heavy with links and content. To me it reflects the way it is when you walk into real stores -- immediately there are hundreds of products, literature racks, books, etc., grabbing for your attention. This metaphor-idea is presented to our shoppers and expounded on at our site map page.

Over the years, in various forums and design lists, I've read about how the experts say to keep each page sparse, with bulleted content, guiding the surfer from one page to another, etc. Sounds good, but the response from customers, generally, is just the opposite. Dozens of times we've received email telling us how easy our navigation is, how intuitive it is to find things, even how refreshing it is to find a site laid out like ours instead of the cookie-cutter look of so many shopping sites. Only a few times have we heard from customers or would-be customers that they thought we should make our site like all the others, data-base driven, drill-down to a photo of one specific product. To me, that's just too many clicks.

A couple of times we've been tempted to do a major remodeling job of the site, going to database, one-product per page kinds of stuff, and I guess one day we'll actually have to do it. But for a site that's basically the same site that was originally built in 1995, only larger now, it does amazingly well as it is.

It's still possible to overwhelm on a webpage, no doubt. Flashing buttons, colors that don't work well together, mixed fonts, too many photos or other graphics, can all contribute to a claustrophobic feel to a website. But done well, a single webpage can be packed with a lot of written information without overwhelming the visitor.

#11 sanity

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 04:23 PM

It's a constant worry that these "busy" pages be easily scanned or navigated so as not to frustrate users.

To me that's the key. Having a lot/little content on a page is not so much the issue. It's whether the users can find what they're looking for - fast!

I've been reading through the Optimal Web Design site Kim and it really is great. Given me a lot of food for thought.

#12 peter_d

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 04:26 PM

Interesting discussion, this :) Just goes to show that usability is more an art than a science, contrary to what some leading Usability gurus expouse.

Now, at the risk of causing offence, I would click away from both your sites (David & Kim) because of the way they are laid out. There are simply too many options and those options aren't clearly differentiated. I would only stick with Kims because I know Kim and am prepared to make more of an effort.

I'm not sure the department store metaphor works online. People can make spacial relationships easily in the real world, and their gaze is directed as they move physically through the space. However, a screen is 2D. Orientation and direction is more difficult unless clearly sign-posted. Result: If I get confused, I click away. I am not going to wrestle with your clutter unless I know you, or *really* want what you've got.

White space is the best usability concept, IMHO :) Sophies site is a good example of user focused design. Keep it clear.

#13 sanity

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 04:38 PM

I took a peek at HerbShop.com and had the same impression as Peter. It got me thinking. How much does our culture/country of origin influence our preferences?

For example I know catalog shopping is big in the US but has never taken off here in Australia.

#14 peter_d

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 04:52 PM

How much does our culture/country of origin influence our preferences?


Good point, Sophie. The cultural associations are certainly important i.e. red means one thing to westerners, and something completely different to the Chinese.

Familiarity has a lot to do with usability. A newspaper is cluttered, yet the format is constant and familiar. Web sites do not have this luxury, therefore designers need to pay close attention to the way the eye scans and how people orient themselves when faced with the unfamiliar.

I keep harping on about these guys, my personal web heroes: 37signals.com and zeldman.com

#15 cre8pc

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 05:50 PM

Heh heh, and I had a ball at Herbshop BECAUSE it's chock full of cool stuff, all there at once so I don't have to hunt for it.

Along with Sophie's excellent point about culture influence, both myself and David from the East coast of the US, which is very BUSY and the energy is chaotic, especially between NYC and Washington, DC. He and I are likely accustomed to having things in our face, so to speak. And we like it that way.

The people who use Cre8pc are coming there to read. I don't sell things there except for an occasional affililate link. I don't advertise services anymore because word of mouth is enough to keep me busy.

Still, it's a constant battle for me to make it usable because there's so much information on the site. I've already removed 1/4 of the site and am considering removing a little used section that I never have time to maintain anymore. Even 1/2 the original site is a bear to manage, but it's a labor of love, not profit.

It's also a site influenced by user feedback. For example, bits of "Kim" in and around it are at the suggestion of users. It's also targeted to small and home businesses, not large companies who can afford to hire people to do what my teaches others to do, for free. If people are willing to self-teach, my site is available to them. The site was used as a backup resource for Yahoo Clubs and Groups I moderated aimed at small and home businesses and startups.

Selling products has its own set of criteria. Get them there in under 3 clicks, provide adequate product info without interference...

Some people like the Kmart approach, where everything is THERE, immediately.

Incidently, I was just reading about how users favor Fluid design, over designs that leave too much white space...will have to find the article for you.

Kim

#16 peter_d

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 06:13 PM

East coast of the US, which is very BUSY and the energy is chaotic, especially between NYC and Washington, DC


Maybe, Kim. I lived in London for four years, and you certainly get used to processing huge amounts of information very quickly.

I like effective communication. I like clarity. I'm annoyed by people who use ten words when one will do. Simplify. Anyone can be verbose and completist, it takes skill to be concise. Same goes for web design. You've got seconds before they click away or dive deeper- use those seconds wisely.

If you have a conversation with someone who you don't know, you usually start small with pleasantries and work up. You don't spill your whole life story in the first two minutes. Some web sites make me feel like I'm dealing with the later.

Seduce me. Entice me. Encourage me to go deeper. It's all a matter of courtesy and timing

#17 cre8pc

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 07:15 PM

Ok, here it is...the article I was reading earlier today.

http://www.humanfact...2.asp#bobbailey

Bob Bailey, Ph.D., Chief Scientist for HFI How should you lay out your Web site?

The "Fluid" layout is the most traditional method, and allows the contents of a Web page to fill an entire window. In other words, it expands and contracts with the size of the window.


This is how I build sites. I abandoned the other ways because the sites I was assigned to (as part of a team in most cases) were just so big and we were building for all resolutions, so we wanted the pages to expand and contract accordingly. The Fluid method allowed for more options and use of page real estate, but of course the draw back becomes how to not overwhelm the user.

They found no reliable differences among the methods in search time, accuracy of finding information, or in search efficiency (number of clicks, use of the Back button, etc.). However, their users reliably believed that the "Fluid" layout was best suited for reading and that it allowed them to find key information more easily. In addition, users reliably preferred the "Fluid" method.


From these studies, it appears that about one out of five Web sites (only 20%) currently are designed using a "Fluid" layout. Unfortunately, the layout most preferred by users, the "Fluid" layout, is the one implemented least often by designers.


I found this very interesting!

The users indicated that "the 'Fluid' layout was best suited for reading and that it allowed them to find key information more easily." Notice that this does not say that users enjoyed the fluid sites more. Notice that it does not suggest they will buy more from fluid sites. It is nice that the users recommend the fluid design as best for reading and search. But as we know, users often make mistakes in their design recommendations and here they have done it again.


The other day my mate remarked at the kinds of sites he was seeing for something he was researching. To his surprise he found the most valuable info in what he called "so so" sites because their content was accurate, easy to find, and pages loaded quickly. He could find what he wanted and get to it. The sites he was disappointed with where the prettier sites, most of which had banners and graphics getting in the way of the content he was looking for. He kept getting distracted and clicked off those sites.

Anyway, I crave feedback on my site, and Peter's remarks were valuable and very much appreciated.

Kim

#18 peter_d

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 07:39 PM

The "Fluid" layout is the most traditional method, and allows the contents of a Web page to fill an entire window. In other words, it expands and contracts with the size of the window


Agree that sites should be fluid.

However I wouldn't take that to mean that text should flow right across the available screen width without interuption. Proportion and space are important. It might be ok if you're already commited to reading the text like you would a book, but if you are still deciding whether to read the text, a full-screen may be too much, too soon.

Generalist scientific analysis has it's place, but runs into problems when applied specifically. This forum text has a certain (restricted) shape because user funtions and navigation are important. People don't *just* read the text.

Anyway, I crave feedback on my site, and Peter's remarks were valuable and very much appreciated.


:)

You're welcome. I also love honest feedback. I'm the first to hate every design I do as I have a very short attention span. Sometimes familiarity breeds contempt.

#19 cre8pc

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Posted 30 October 2002 - 03:12 PM

I love a challenge, especially since I wanted to change it anyway. I NEVER totally love my site...

but, since Jill is publishing something I wrote in her newsletter today, I wanted to clean my own house since my article tells everyone how to do theirs.

Geez, at the very least, the redesigned homepage for Cre8pc.com seems a bit more organized. Still a LOT of stuff, but I restacked the shelves better I think :wink:

Ok, so whaddya think? (I hate asking that question, don't you???)

Kim

#20 Advisor

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Posted 30 October 2002 - 03:22 PM

Speaking of which...what do you want me to use for your intro in the newsletter?

(I suppose I should have emailed you that question, but I was here and I'm too lazy!)

J

#21 peter_d

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Posted 30 October 2002 - 03:25 PM

Hi Kim,

IMHO - a great improvement :( The divisions make it a lot easier to pick out the nav, the main body the links. My eye was naturally drawn down to your picture, so I think you're getting a great deal of personality across, which is important for a site that tries to establish a trusting, personal relationship.

That top nav bar doesn't work for me. May just be personal thing, but there seems to be a lot of horizontals already. Would that area be better kept clean?

The use of yellow to seperate content is good. Really helped me organise things in my head.

My two cents.... ;)

#22 sanity

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Posted 30 October 2002 - 03:48 PM

The "Fluid" layout is the most traditional method, and allows the contents of a Web page to fill an entire window. In other words, it expands and contracts with the size of the window.

I'd agree but that doesn't mean there still can't be white space too. This site I did a while ago uses a fluid layout but still incorporates white space - IMHO of course. :wink:

Kim - your updated site looks good. I must say personally I prefer less info (but that's just me) but it's easy on the eye and shows the user you have tons of content. I don't mind the top nav bar - easy to distinguish from the content.

:(

#23 cre8pc

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Posted 30 October 2002 - 03:56 PM

Thanks!

Technically, yes, the top navbar doesn't work. I would never do that for a client site. In my case, it's the same as the inside pages, with slight variations here and there. So as not to confuse users I wanted to keep the same top nav scheme throughout the site.

It's not a nice looking one though. It's a carryover from a design from 2 years back in fact. I like to use text-onlt top nav's for SEO purposes.

When I dream up a better idea, I'll change it. Today I needed to do something pretty quickly that didn't wreak havoc on the rest of the site.

Kim

#24 drdavid

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Posted 30 October 2002 - 04:56 PM

Yes, Kim's updated home page looks good, and the vertical rules and blank lines between paragraphs make it easier to read. I still like the fact that it's loaded with content. I don't have a problem jumping around the screen looking for what might be of interest at the time. Must be that "US East Coast thang" Kim mentioned earlier.

Someone mentioned that our differences in opinion on white space vs heavy content might be influenced by where we live, the US or Australia. You may be on to something. Maybe it's in our genes, or something we absorb from the local environment, or something psychologically/astrologically-significant, even. :wink:

If I remember my geography lessons, most of the cities (and people) in Australia are lined up along the east coast, with the interior wide open. For various reasons the interior on towards the west is basically unsettled, or "white space."

Americans, on the other hand, as soon as we came ashore on the east coast, began a relentless march across the country -- prairies, deserts, mighty rivers couldn't stop us -- not resting til we'd paved most of it, and put up a McDonald's *and* a Burger King *and* a convenience store on every streetcorner. Apparently we LIKE to overwhelm ourselves!

#25 cre8pc

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Posted 30 October 2002 - 05:14 PM

This site I did a while ago uses a fluid layout but still incorporates white space


Very nice site Sophie. I love that style myself but don't use it because there's no room to make it content driven. For a site like the one you did, the pictures have to tell the story, and yours does. Optimizing it for engines must be a pain in the neck though...

The plus of a content-driven site is the SEO angle. In the article Jill's putting in her newsletter today I talk a bit about how to squeeze bits of SEO into sites and enhancing usability at the same time.

The other consideration for putting a lot of inbound links from a homepage is the cost. Google and Fast pick up those links really well and usually index a complete site (FAST does it better than Google). For those that can only afford to pay for one URL at search portals, that one page has to do a lot of things. Since Cre8pc.com doesn't pay its own way (I generate very little revenue from that site and it's always been that way.) I don't invest in promotion for it. I have a lot of sympathy for web site owners who want a chance out there, but don't have the money to compete with those who can afford to promote well.

Cre8pc's a labor of love and seems to want to remain that way :shock:

Kim

#26 sanity

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Posted 30 October 2002 - 05:29 PM

This site I did a while ago uses a fluid layout but still incorporates white space


Very nice site Sophie. I love that style myself but don't use it because there's no room to make it content driven. For a site like the one you did, the pictures have to tell the story, and yours does. Optimizing it for engines must be a pain in the neck though...

Thanks Kim. Funnily enough optimising it has never been a problem. It ranks pretty well in most SE's. There's a second site at www which specialises in Home furniture. It does very well too. Am in the process of re-doing it whic is a challenge.

#27 sanity

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Posted 30 October 2002 - 05:29 PM

This site I did a while ago uses a fluid layout but still incorporates white space


Very nice site Sophie. I love that style myself but don't use it because there's no room to make it content driven. For a site like the one you did, the pictures have to tell the story, and yours does. Optimizing it for engines must be a pain in the neck though...

Thanks Kim. Funnily enough optimising it has never been a problem. It ranks pretty well in most SE's. There's a second site at www which specialises in Home furniture. It does very well too. Am in the process of re-doing it which is a challenge. I'm doing the design and SEO at the same time though and that's great. :(

#28 cre8pc

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Posted 30 October 2002 - 05:58 PM

Also wanted to point out that in a perfect world, i.e. having a site that doesn't have a zillion things to deal with, Sophie's homepage is a good example of above the fold design. This means most of the info is there instantly without the need to scroll.

http://www.nitrogen.net.au/

The page looks a tad strange on my gigantic monitor at 1024 but I'm smart enough to know it wasn't designed to fill my resolution. Nor are many sites on the Web. There's a bit of a scroll at 800 res. using my nifty little app that I use for resolution testing.

Which, by the way, I should do on my site more since David emailed me privately to warn me I have some 800 res. problems with some of my inside pages!

I got tired of looking at my stuff and went to see Sophie's instead :(
It's always fun to see what people do.

I helped rebuild this site, http://www.qaassociates.com/which still has problems and it's one of those "whatever the client wants" things, but it's another example of most of the info being at the top. It needed to be rebuilt because it and their sister site http://www.qanow.com/ were orignally done in all graphics, even the content was all in graphics. They wanted engines to crawl the sites so I was hired to pull out my bag of tricks. Had to rebuild them from scratch, in HTML, and make them look exactly like the original graphic versions. Never did succeed because the QA Now site still blows up at different resolutions...but they get so much traffic they no longer care.


Kim

#29 sanity

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Posted 30 October 2002 - 06:13 PM

Thanks Kim. Actually after reading that Optimal Web Design site you posted I think I'll move the nav to the left and make it fluid. :oops: I think it will flow better with the nav in a more recognised area.

You know I have my monitor set at 1152x864 but I always surf with my browser at about half size. I was talking to someone the other day that also has their monitor set to a high res and surfs maximised. I was surprised. So the question is what does everyone do? Maximized browser or custom size? It goes to show no matter how many variables you take into account when designing a site - there's always someting else. :roll:

http://www.qaassociates.com works well with all the info at the top. Nice and easy to find what you're looking for.

#30 peter_d

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Posted 30 October 2002 - 06:36 PM

The plus of a content-driven site is the SEO angle. In the article Jill's putting in her newsletter today I talk a bit about how to squeeze bits of SEO into sites and enhancing usability at the same time. 


True, although I've always had an issue with this. More does not necessarily mean better, except where SEs are concerned. That's why you get all these god-awful SEO sites chock full of "helpful articles", which no one ever reads. "Ethical" doorways (snigger), in other words. Thank heavens for PR (albeit basic). Looking forward to more community based ranking systems.

I guess you make trade-offs in various ways. It's helpful to remember that SEO is only one *part* of marketing. The art is to amalgamate many forms in order to achieve an end.

Someone mentioned that our differences in opinion on white space vs heavy content might be influenced by where we live, the US or Australia. You may be on to something.


I think it's a good point D. We're into wide open spaces down here :)

But there are core commonalities. Westerners read from left to right, scan images from upper left to bottom right. We all need visual spacial relief and orientation clues.

Busy is fine, I like nme.com and Amazon.com. It's just the way the busy-ness is presented is key.



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