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Usability threads in 2003

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#1 BillSlawski


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Posted 28 January 2004 - 12:25 AM

We've had a lot of interesting usability threads over the year 2003, and some excellent ones already in 2004.

We thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the posts from last year.

It was difficult to choose for this retrospective, because there were so many good ones.

In the end, I selected a number of threads that had received a fair amount of responses, and generated interesting comments.

But, there are a whole bunch of fascinating topics that were posted in the usability forum that didn't get any, or many comments when they were first posted. I recommend that you also look through those if you have some time. Many of them could lead to some pretty interesting conversations.

December, 2002 - January, 2003

this time about screen resolution
Screen resolution seems to be a popular topic around these parts. This thread actually started in December 2002, but it kept on generating some thoughtful comments.

February, 2003

Optimum Levels and Elements for a Menu System
Navigation and numbers highlighted this topic, as we explored how many differnt menu items might be best, and how many elements should be included for each. We discussed chunking of information, touched upon breadcrumbs, and exploded the seven plus or minus two myth.

March, 2003

What is the best text style for web design?
This thread spawned a great dialogue involving system fonts, favorite fonts, typography, readability, alternate print pages, and CSS print style sheet versions, and some great links about optimum sizes and fonts for design.

10 web design mistakes to challenge Jakob Nielsen.
What started as a set of great lists of design mistakes turned into one of the funnier threads of the year.

April, 2003

Three clicks and you're out?
There are some common practices that web designers believe are good usability practices that upon closer inspection reveal themselves to be myths. As an added bonus, I believe this might have been the first Cre8asite thread that future forum moderator Scottie posted in :lol:

May, 2003

site map ideas
Suggestions for creating a sitemap, including benefits for visitors and search engines. A good Usability meets SEO meets information architecture topic.

An Interaction Design Forum? desirability, captology, etc
Forum member DCrx introduced us to some topics that we'd actually like to see more of here in the forums, including the study of computers as Persuasive Technology, or captology; desirability, and interaction design. I know I've been referring a lot of people to the Stanford Persuasive Technologies pages, especially when the topic of credibilty arises. How does your design influence and persuade people?

June, 2003

Impatient web searchers measure web sites' appeal in seconds
We all agreed that there are certain things we like to see on a site, and they should stand out. James expressed it really well here.

Splash page Usability
They often are a topic of scorn and ridicule, but we sort of dared here to ask, "Could there be positive reasons to use a splash page?" And, you know what? We found some.

July, 2003

usability and pdf files
Spurred on by an article from usability guru Jakob Nielsen, a variety of viewpoints considered the ins and outs of the portable document format or pdf.

August, 2003

Desirability Interface Example
We look at an unconventional way to find books to read with a web based application.

What is the Return on Investment (ROI) for usability?
A topic that I'm guessing will show up at least once a year in any forum involving usability. some great points, and some useful links.

Usability or Saleability
Answers to the question: "I wonder if we changed the name to Saleability, if there would be a wider acceptance of Usability."

September, 2003

password usability and accessibility
Some questions and answers regarding password usability, and a discussion about learning in a forum, with a great couple of posts on the subject from Jonathan.

November, 2003

When not to phone "Home"
Who would have guessed that a thread about pages that link to themselves would generate somuch interest, and intelligent commentary?

December, 2003

Three Click Rule: A Misdirected but Well-Intentioned Rule
We revisit the three-click rule, but end up going in a different direction. I'll probably mention the three click rule again in another six months or so. It's a definite attention getter.

Usability research using Eye Tracking
This thread started out with some interesting comments and links on eyetracking, and switched to an articulate exploration of how people use forums.

#2 DaveChild


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Posted 28 January 2004 - 03:54 AM

Fantastic stuff, Bill - a great selection of the more interesting threads from the last year!

#3 subnet_rx


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Posted 01 October 2005 - 12:00 AM

wow, a lot of good info there. Now let's create a super thread for 04 and 05 ;)

#4 BillSlawski


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Posted 02 October 2005 - 10:39 PM

A good idea. I've come up with some more usability threads through October of 2004, and will try to get us up to date over the next week or so, though there are lots of excellent threads to sort through :)

My two favorites during that time were:

Can You Get TOO Usable? (Of Blinders and Peanut Jars)

So, I was working out some ideas for a user interface and spotted a half-full peanut jar someone had left up here over by one of the other machines. Staring at my screen and the work before me, I reached out and snatched up the peanut jar and proceeded to glide my thumb around the ridge of the lid to find that little tab to pop it open. I didn't find it, so I glanced down to make sure I was, in fact, holding onto a peanut jar. Yup. It was a peanut jar. Planters. Perfectly normal - just no tab.


I am seeing the word "engagability" more and more. Does anyone have any good idea about what it means. It usually used in conjunction with usability and accessibility.

There were a lot of other really good usability threads, and it was difficult to choose amongst them. I ended up with a pretty long list, and culled it down to some of the ones that got the most responses:

Common Usability Mistakes (This one was from 2003, but too good to not include)

I can't stop. Somebody stop me. I'm a usability addict!!!!

Can Sound be Used as "Atmosphere" for Websites?

As if by weird coincidence, we have a new member of the forums, "Maestro" with a website that, I think, relates to this discussion. I'm going to invite him to talk about what they're doing at his company. As he wrote to me, they provide "a service to web designers who are bold enough to think about sound being a part of the web experience and how designers can apply sound to websites."

Old Browser Compatibility. Is it Worth It?

The thing is ... which browser would you aim to be compatible with? Version 4 browers? Decent HTML and CSS layouts, without using tables for layout, or font tags, will often work in browsers as early as version 1 or 2. They won't look pretty, but they'll work. Version 4 compatibility usually means using tables for layout and lots of hacks. And, IMO, there's simply no reason for that any more ...

Consistency and Breadcrumbs are Dead

Different folks will find they're comfortable with different ways of keeping their sense of direction as they wander around a website. What you've got to do is to make sure everyone finds the help they need.

Give Me an "M" Web Site Design

There's more magic in the internet now than ever - semantic web, p2p networks, streaming that actually works, VoIP that actually works, search that actually works, online communities, personal publishing. And we've only just got started.

Click Here, Redundant or a Standard?

Has the over-use of 'click here' turned it into one of those website standards such as 'shopping cart' that everyone instinctually recognizes? If so, does this make 'click here' an element that boosts website usability?

When & Where to Use 'Back to Top' on Your Webpage

Personally I love the idea of a 'back to top' link though I rarely see it implemented in a good away and I find it annoying if after each paragraph.  

The problem with using an icon or some other visual clue is often many people do not recognize it.  

It is startling to realize how much on a webpage people /do not/ see. Button, icons and links I've worked hard on created go totally unnoticed when I test.

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