10 usability tips based on real research

This article is based on the results of usability studies conducted with the help of special tests and light tracking, a technology for determining the position and fixation of the human eye.

Cameron Chapman, an American web designer, wrote a provocative article, “10 Usability Tips Based on Research Studies,” in which the results of these studies were seriously analyzed.

As a result, some “a priori” foundations of usability were in doubt.

1. Forget the three-click rule.

In 2001, Jeffrey Zeldman, a recognized authority in the web design industry, expressed this idea: users are very annoyed if they are forced to click more than three times to find the right content on the site.

Yes, it makes some sense. Of course, no one will like to wander around the site for ages in search of what should be on the surface. But why is everything limited to three clicks? Is there any real evidence that users close the tab after three shots of clicks idling?

In fact, users will not leave the site by clicking on the magic number. The number of clicks is in no way connected with the user’s possible irritability. This is confirmed by the study of Joshua Porter: users are ready to click a lot more – up to 12 times to find what they need. “Almost no one gives up after three clicks,” concludes Porter.

So, do not get hung up on the number of clicks and try to minimize them. If you can build a user interface that is easy and pleasant to use, but the number of necessary clicks tends to 15 (several times more than the allowed three) – do not go over the spherical laws and do not break usability.

2. Structure content according to the F-curve rule.

Jakob Nielsen, a pioneer in the field of usability, explored ways of reading users based on eytracking. He analyzed the behavior of more than 230 people and derived a pattern: we study web content according to the F-curve rule.

A similar study was conducted by marketers from Enquiro and Did-it with the help of eytoreking from the company Eyetools. They noted the same feature, studying the behavior of users on the Google search results page: the concentration of attention fell on the top of the page and the left half of it.

This feature is associated with “filters” that are formed in the minds of users based on their experience in web surfing. Usually all the useful information is in the left part (menu) and in the central part; and to the right is often allocated space for advertising, so users often pay attention to the “useful” areas. Hence practical advice – do not place menus or other navigation blocks on the right side of the pages. They are likely to be perceived as sponsored links.

Designers and copywriters should focus on the results of these studies to increase the effectiveness of their work.

3. Do not keep users waiting

So much has been said about how impatient users are and hate waiting. And this is a real confirmation. Bing, a search engine from Microsoft, analyzed whether the site’s loading speed affects such indicators as satisfaction, user revenue and click rate.

The report has the following figures:

  • If the duration of the site loading exceeds two seconds, user satisfaction is reduced by 3.8%.
  • Revenue from each user is reduced by 4.3%.
  • The number of clicks is reduced by 4.3%.

For a large company like Microsoft, a 4.3% drop in profits could result in a loss of several million dollars.

So, users really do not like to wait. And if you care about your place in the search results, engage in the acceleration of the site loading – Google now takes into account this factor in the search ranking. What can be done to improve site performance? Use special tools to find bottlenecks, CSS sprites for faster downloads and speed meters. For example, YSlow.

4. Make your content readable

In fact, users practically do not read web pages, at least according to the research of Jacob Nielsen. His analysis shows that people read only 28% of the text, and pages with long text do look through.

To increase the likelihood that users will still read your “message,” use methods to make it easier to read. Highlight keywords, use headings, write in short paragraphs, use lists, illustrate with examples.

5. Do not worry if the information does not fit in one screen.

It has long been a stereotype that all important information should be placed in the first screen. It went from the press, where it is customary to give a brief explanation of each article before it begins. Are long pages ineffective? Do I need to try to shove everything at once into the first screen, for fear that users will not scroll?

The answer is no to Clicktale, a web analytics company. Her research has shown that page length has no effect on the likelihood of scrolling.

The study of Joe Leech (Joe Leech) from the design studio CX Partners (focused, by the way, on the user), showed that the less information in the first screen, the more it stimulates to scroll down.

Use visual hierarchy principles, differentiate your content by importance.

The main idea: you should not try to fit all the most important in the first screen.
The most popular sites in our time are a variety of social networks with long “walls” that users have long been used to scrolling. This habit they use on other sites. Therefore, you need to care more about the readability of your content than about the place it occupies. Remember that users cannot perceive more than seven objects in one area. Give more air, and users will read your site much faster.

6. Place the most important thing on the left side of the page.

We read, write and view web pages from left to right. The absolute majority of users concentrate on the left half of the pages – as much as 69% of the time spent on the site. Nielsen obtained such data as a result of his research, in which more than 20 people took part.

A similar dependence can be traced in Arab cultures, where it is customary to read from right to left: the right half of sites receives increased attention.

Conclusion: the language of the site affects the location of the content – at the design stage of the site it is important to take into account the cultural aspect of future users.

7. Spaces in the text affect readability

There are many factors that affect the ease of reading, for example, the font, its size, the spacing between lines, and the background color – it should be in contrast to the text color.

Do not overdo the contrast when it comes to a dark background and light letters. In this case, reading a large amount of text is almost impossible. The combination of bright colors for the background and text (for example, red and green) will also reduce readability. To check if the contrast is easy to read, try reading a couple of pages on the site, and then look at the light wall. If you see light areas moving with the movement of your eyes, then the background color should be changed.

The study readability of web texts was attended by 20 users. They were shown several versions of the same text with different design – the differences concerned only indents and intervals. As a result, it became obvious that the text without fields is read faster, but the understanding is significantly reduced. The researchers explain it this way: reading speed increases due to the close proximity of paragraphs and less effort to move the gaze to the next line.

Conclusion: the way content is presented has a significant impact on its perception. Be careful with the details: color, size, spacing. Remember the rules of typography, you can still read Lebedev.

Do not abuse non-standard fonts and italics. Large amounts of text typed in this way are very hard to read. And you should not align the text to the width: it can work well only if you have organized literal hyphenation of words. Word wrap on websites also should not be used – so leave justification for the press.

8. Small elements are essential.

Too often, when designing a design, the focus is on a holistic picture, not on its details. Where there are small buttons and molds, when time and resources are limited. However, there are so many small elements that are simply unforgivably overlooked.

Even a button can affect the success of a site – at least according to Jared Spool. He conducted an experiment to increase the percentage of correct data entry by users: at the stage of placing an order, instead of the button they needed, a clear error message was displayed.

Users rechecked their data, entered correctly – and as a result, the company’s revenue increased by $ 300 million in just one year. And in the first month after the innovation, sales increased by 45%. Merit belongs precisely to this approach to online ordering.

Attention to detail is also important for Flow, a user-oriented design studio. Its employees discovered such a pattern: if you add a really useful text and tips for further actions to the error page, you can increase the profit of a specific site by a quarter of a million pounds per year (a little more than 14 million Russian rubles).

What did they write on their 404 page? A polite message in three sentences instead of a spherical figure: “Unfortunately, we had problems with processing your order. Payment on your card did not take place. Please click check to return to order. ”

Always pay attention to system texts. The user should effortlessly understand what he is doing right, where he made a mistake and what he should do next. Explain with your texts as clearly as possible where to go and what to click, add links to quickly jump to the necessary pages. So you will increase the number of successful orders and satisfied users, as well as download your online consultants.

Pay attention to the details. Use A/B testing to test your hypotheses and generate the most effective message. Set the necessary goals with the help of analytical programs and find out how the design of the site corresponds to its objectives.

9. Searching the site does not solve navigation problems.

Users need simple and convenient site navigation. Even with a superbly implemented site search, users will still first turn to the main navigation. According to a study by Gerry McGovern (Gerry McGovern), more than 70% of users are trying to find the content they need, going through sections of the site, without resorting to the search form.

Similar results were obtained as a result of the UIE research: if users do not find the necessary information in the sections of the site, they will most likely return to the search engine rather than use the search form. By the way, many people often resort to browser search if they don’t find the necessary content on the page themselves.

Conclusion: do not rely on site search if the organization of content on your site leaves much to be desired. When the user can not immediately find what he is looking for, he switches his attention to the sections of sites – if there is nothing suitable there, the site flies to the basket.

If you have a complex filter (search) in the catalog, then when you first enter the catalog, users should see not only the filter parameters, but also the products. Users will use the filter to shorten the list of products, but initially hiding all products and forcing each user to understand the filter is impractical.

The site search functions should not be discounted either, but you need to improve them secondarily.

10. The home page of your site is not as important as you think.

The probability that the user will go to the main page, and not to one of the internal pages, is negligible. This affects the work of search engines and the selection of the most relevant pages.

According to Gerry McGovern, the links on the main pages practically do not go: if in 2003 39% of users clicked on them, then in 2010 – only 2%. This was confirmed by studies of two sites. By the way, on one of them, the click-through rate has halved in two years – from 10% in 2008 to 5% in 2010.

All this shows the role of external sources – search engines, social networks and services for the selection of sites of a particular subject (for example, AllTop). Thus, more attention to the internal pages can increase the return on your site without investing additional funds.


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