Category Archives: User Experience (UX)

The trouble with RSS.

A humorous yet informative article examining why so few people are aware / use RSS feeds. This guy argues that we need to remove the RSS from RSS and make it more accessible:

http://www.dead20.com/2006/08/28/re-whats-rss-i-told-you-so/

At the moment this is very much a technology whereby someone needs to sit down and show you how it works and what it does – it then becomes indispensable. I showed my wife how to use it and she is now giving a talk at her engineering firm on the ways it can benefit them.

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Eye Tracking and Footer Fetish

I’ve never been a fan of eye tracking research, here are some of the reasons why:

http://www.andyrutledge.com/eye-tracking-tripe.php

There maybe some good ways to use eye tracking, but there are plenty more ways to use it for evil!

BTW I’m beginning to love big footers. Check out the bottom of the above page. It’s often such a wasted opportunity and it’s probably down to us IAs not suggesting a worthy use for the space. Which reminds me of this article:

http://www.powazek.com/2005/09/000540.html

When you’re designing pages – specifically content pages – what is the best possible thing that could happen? I mean after the user has bought a computer, gotten internet connectivity, figured out how to use a browser, and somehow found their way to your site … what is the single best thing that they could do?

Read. That’s right, read. And read all the way to the bottom of the page. In this business, a user that actually reads all the way to the bottom of a page is like gold. They’re your best, most engaged, happiest users. You know, because they haven’t clicked away. They did the best possible thing they could do, and now they’re at the bottom of the page. And how do you reward them?

With a copyright statement. Maybe, if they’re lucky, some bland footer navigation.”

Maybe I have a footer fetish?

PS What would a dog look like sticking it’s head out of an accelerating car window?

http://ueba.com.br/forum/index.php?showtopic=22246

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The death march for advertising?

Jared Spool argues, spend less on advertising and make your product work better instead. In this way your users will evangelise to others whom they’ll listen to, and trust, more than advertising:

http://www.uie.com/brainsparks/2006/07/31/the-death-march-for-advertising/

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Google Accessible Search – Not Very Accessible

“Accessible Search is an early Google Labs product designed to identify and prioritize search results that are more easily usable by blind and visually impaired users.”

http://labs.google.com/accessible/

Ironically the pages themselves are not marked up in an entirely accessible manner:

  • They often fail to split the presentation from the mark up – <font color=#008000> meaning that it’s harder for the target audience to use their own colour schemes.
  • They are still using a table based layout – sometimes nested to three levels
  • The occasional use of non-relative font sizes : <font-size:9px>
  • And more…

It’s a start though, and another string for our bow to encourage our clients to consider accessibility a must for their sites.

Whilst on the topic of search, here’s a semi interesting article on Search 2.0

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/search_20_vs_tr.php

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links for 2006-05-05

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The Damn Fold (horizontal and vertical)

Why oh why is this still an issue? I keep being asked to squish things up on my wireframes so that the content fits above the "fold". This is wrong on two counts – a) my wireframes do not represent the design and b) there is no fold.

Amusingly enough, such is the fear of the fold that we have started designing for 1024px screens. I don't have anything against this, but when its used solely for the purpose of sticking more content near the top of the page it goes wrong. For a start, non fluid, non dynamic, page layouts should not have key content down the right hand side. We, quite rightly, spend a lot of time and money on making websites accessible for what is arguably less than 5% of the audience. So why, when we can see that over 10% are still using 800 x 600, are we excluding them?

On a recent project, inspired by Newzealand.com and UX Mag, I've suggested that we start using a dynamic layout whereby content that doesn't fit into the width of the browser window automatically drops to the bottom of the content. Another approach is the fluid approach as shown perfectly at Vitamin, but fluid design always scares designers…
And as for the vertical fold, there isn't one! Just prioritise your information on the page and don't be afraid of the scrollbar. Users know how to scroll and it's a lot easier than pagination.

Feels better now I've got that out of my system. Very cathartic this blogging malarkey.

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A rant on left navigation

I agree that it’s not always the case, but I think there needs to be a good argument against alphabetical left navigation, such as if there was some kind of order in which the user should be doing / reading stuff, or that there aren’t that many links.

If something is perceived as more important than something else (normally by the client) then I think the page content is where to express this, as it gives you more room to highlight important information without sacrificing the usability of the left navigation. I have seen this in action when user testing a few (admittedly ecom) sites. When users know what they are after they typically use the left navigation to quickly reach the information they are after. If they do not, they are more likely to look at the page content. We already make it reasonably difficult for users in the sense that they have to guess on what taxonomy we have settled on, but by organizing lists of links (left navs) in an ad hoc way we are making their lives even harder.

Hehe, didn’t realize I had so many opinions on left navigation! Spent too long arguing with clients in the past…

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