Docstoc

Web Page Color Scheam _Deep Linking

Document Sample
Web Page Color Scheam _Deep Linking Powered By Docstoc
					                     Deep Linking is Good Linking
  Supporting Deep-Link Users ................................................................................. 3
  When to Avoid Deep Links ..................................................................................... 3
Top Ten Guidelines for Homepage Usability ........................................................ 4
  Make the Site’s Purpose Clear: Explain Who You Are and What You Do
  ......................................................................................................................................... 4
      1. Include a One-Sentence Tagline ................................................................. 5
      2. Write a Window Title with Good Visibility in Search Engines and
      Bookmark Lists ...................................................................................................... 5
      3. Group all Corporate Information in One Distinct Area ....................... 5
  Help Users Find What They Need ........................................................................ 5
      4. Emphasize the Site’s Top High-Priority Tasks ....................................... 5
      5. Include a Search Input Box .......................................................................... 5
  Reveal Site Content .................................................................................................. 5
      6. Show Examples of Real Site Content ........................................................ 5
      7. Begin Link Names with the Most Important Keyword ......................... 5
      8. Offer Easy Access to Recent Homepage Features ................................. 6
  Use Visual Design to Enhance, not Define, Interaction Design ................ 6
      9. Don’t Over-Format Critical Content, Such as Navigation Areas ...... 6
      10. Use Meaningful Graphics ........................................................................... 6
  Additional Homepage Guidelines ......................................................................... 6
Kids’ Corner: Website Usability for Children ....................................................... 6
  Testing Children’s Web Use ................................................................................... 7
  Usability Problems Hurt Kids ............................................................................... 7
  Age-Appropriate Content ........................................................................................ 8
  Differences between Children and Adult Users .............................................. 8
  Advertising Works ..................................................................................................... 9
  Gender Differences ................................................................................................... 9
  Cool Content, Simple Interaction ........................................................................ 9
Microcontent: How to Write Headlines, Page Titles, and Subject Lines ... 10
  Guidelines for Microcontent ................................................................................ 10
  Examples ................................................................................................................... 11
      Email subject: Opportunity....................................................................................... 11
      Email subject: Web Design Conference in Norway ................................................... 11
      Page title: Big Blue and Wall Street too ................................................................... 11
      Page title: Reading your PC ...................................................................................... 11
      Page title: Sound Card Competition Heats Up ......................................................... 12
How Users Read on the Web ................................................................................... 12
  They don’t.................................................................................................................... 12
  Measuring the Effect of Improved Web Writing ............................................ 12
Search: Visible and Simple ...................................................................................... 14
  Search Should be a Box ........................................................................................ 14
  Query Reformulation: Not .................................................................................... 15
  Advanced Search: Not............................................................................................ 15
                                                                                                                                           1
   Scoped Search: Maybe .......................................................................................... 16
   First Results Page is Golden................................................................................ 16
Getting Update Notifications for the Alertbox.................................................... 16
   Privacy Policy ............................................................................................................ 16
   How to Subscribe .................................................................................................... 17
       Send an email message to join-alertbox@laser.sparklist.com ....................... 17
   How to Unsubscribe ............................................................................................... 17
   Sample Newsletter .................................................................................................. 17
Supporting Multiple-Location Users ..................................................................... 17
   Putting It Together .................................................................................................. 18
   Design Implications ................................................................................................ 18
   More Users = More Need for Usability .............................................................. 18
Tagline Blues: What’s the Site About? ................................................................. 19
   Obscurity in action ................................................................................................. 19
   Getting it (half) right............................................................................................... 20
   Tagline guidelines ................................................................................................... 20
Usability for Senior Citizens .................................................................................... 21
   Research with Seniors Using Websites ............................................................ 21
   Usability Metrics Twice as High for Non-Seniors ......................................... 22
   Why Usability is Lower for Seniors ................................................................... 22
   Readability and Clickability ................................................................................. 23
   Supportive and Forgiving Design ....................................................................... 23
   Usability Increases Satisfaction ......................................................................... 24
What Makes .................................................................................................................. 24
a ........................................................................................................................................ 24
Good ................................................................................................................................ 24
Home Page ..................................................................................................................... 24
Why Web Users Scan Instead of Read ................................................................. 26




Summary:
Links that go directly to a site’s interior pages enhance usability because, unlike generic
links, they specifically relate to users’ goals. Websites should encourage deep linking and
follow three guidelines to support its users.
Some Internet marketing managers just don’t want hot leads to visit their
website. I conclude this after hearing that website owners actually call
search engine customer service departments complaining that users are
daring to enter sites directly on pages they’re most interested in. These
callers would prefer search engines that link users only to the
homepages and never to pages inside the site.
Ticketmaster even filed a lawsuit to get other websites to stop sending
users directly to interior pages where users could buy tickets to specific
shows. In contrast to these cases, most websites treasure such direct
and deep links, and pay dearly for affiliate programs that encourage
other sites to send them targeted traffic.
These sites understand what our study of e-commerce usability showed:
Difficulties in getting from the homepage to the correct product page
accounted for 27% of the failures (averaged across 20 sites). On
average, better usability can double an e-commerce site’s sales, so
preventing deep linking would eliminate about a quarter of the potential
                                                                                                                                           2
sales from visitors arriving from search engines. These visitors are the
hottest leads because of their current, specific interest in your products;
you really don’t want to lose their business.
Deep linking enhances usability because it is more likely to satisfy
users’ needs. Generic links, such as links to a company’s homepage, are
less useful than specific links that take users to an individual article or
product.
Now that we finally have effective Web-wide search engines, users will
likely use them more often to locate deep links to a specific solution,
rather than starting out at a company’s homepage.

Supporting Deep-Link Users
A website is like a house with a million entrances: the front door is simply one among
many ways to get in. A good website will accommodate visitors who choose alternate
routes.
Here are three guidelines for enhancing usability for users who enter
your site at interior pages:
      Tell users their arrival point, and how they can proceed to other
        parts of the site by including these three design elements on every single page:
             o Company name or logo in upper left corner
             o Direct, one-click link to the homepage
             o Search (preferably in the upper right corner)
      Orient the user relative to the rest of the website. If the site has hierarchical
        information architecture, a breadcrumb trail is usually the best way to do this.
        Also, include links to other resources that are directly relevant to the current
        location. Don’t bury the user in links to all site areas or to pages that are unrelated
        to their current location.
      Don’t assume that users have followed a drill-down path to arrive
        at the current page. They may not have seen information that was contained on
        higher-level pages.
An example of the third point: I was recently researching a flat-panel monitor at a
computer vendor’s site. I got there by searching Google for the monitor model, after
reading a positive review in a magazine. Once there, I could not find a link to the specs.
Nowhere. Later in the session, I clicked the breadcrumb for the category page with all the
monitors. There, I found the spec sheet, which was in an annoying PDF file that
contained the specs for all the monitors scattered across a brochure. This was bad enough,
let alone that this essential selling tool was only available on the category page, not the
product pages.

When to Avoid Deep Links
In a few cases, deep links are counter-productive because certain pages cannot or should
not be used before users have passed through higher-level pages.
An example from my own site: I have an exercise that asks readers of my
homepage guidelines to evaluate the improvements in the recent redesign
of the BBC’s homepage. The exercise consists of two pages:
      an initial page that explains the problem
      a subsequent page that provides the solution
If these two pages are viewed in anything but the proper sequence, the entire exercise is
spoiled. You can never look at a design with fresh eyes once you know where the
                                                                                             3
usability problems are located. Thus, anybody who followed a deep link to the page with
the solution would not benefit from the exercise.
It’s easy to prevent search engines from deep linking to a specific page.
Simply include the following meta-tag code in the HEAD part of the page:
                     <META NAME=”robots” CONTENT=”noindex”>
Well-behaved search engines will exclude any such page from their
databases.
Deep linking from non-search sites and from misguided search engines
can be prevented by some fancy server-side programming that checks
whether a user has been to the appropriate higher-level page before
entering the sensitive page. I don’t recommend this, however, because of
the high likelihood of getting it wrong and preventing access by legitimate
users. If a third-party website is so stupid that it links to a useless
destination, then it’s probably such a bad site that it has very little traffic
anyway.
Deep linking is your friend: It gets users to their preferred destination
as quickly as possible. Thus, you should only use the “noindex” meta-tag
for pages that users should never visit first.


Top Ten Guidelines for Homepage
Usability
Summary:
A company’s homepage is its face to the world and the starting point for most user visits.
Improving your homepage multiplies the entire website’s business value, so following
key guidelines for homepage usability is well worth the investment.
Homepages are the most valuable real estate in the world. Each year,
companies and individuals funnel millions of dollars through a space
that’s not even a square foot in size. For good reason. A homepage’s
impact on a company’s bottom line is far greater than simple measures
of e-commerce revenues: The homepage is your company’s face to the
world. Increasingly, potential customers will look at your company’s
online presence before doing business with you—regardless of whether
they plan to close the actual sale online.
The homepage is the most important page on most websites, and gets
more page views than any other page. Of course, users don’t always
enter a website from the homepage. A website is like a house in which
every window is also a door: People can follow links from search engines
and other websites that reach deep inside your site. However, one of the
first things these users do after arriving at a new site is go to the
homepage. Deep linking is very useful, but it doesn’t give users the site
overview a homepage offers—if the homepage design follows strong
usability guidelines, that is.
Following are ten things you can do to increase the usability of your
homepage and thus enhance your website’s business value.

Make the Site’s Purpose Clear: Explain Who
You Are and What You Do
                                                                                         4
1. Include a One-Sentence Tagline

Start the page with a tagline that summarizes what the site or company does, especially
if you’re new or less than famous. Even well-known companies presumably hope to
attract new customers and should tell first-time visitors about the site’s purpose. It is
especially important to have a good tagline if your company’s general marketing slogan
is bland and fails to tell users what they’ll gain from visiting the site.

2. Write a Window Title with Good Visibility in Search
Engines and Bookmark Lists

Begin the TITLE tag with the company name, followed by a brief description of the site.
Don’t start with words like “The” or “Welcome to” unless you want to be alphabetized
under “T” or “W.”

3. Group all Corporate Information in One Distinct Area

Finding out about the company is rarely a user’s first task, but sometimes people do need
details about who you are. Good corporate information is especially important if the site
hopes to support recruiting, investor relations, or PR, but it can also serve to increase a
new or lesser-known company’s credibility. An “About <company-name>”
section is the best way to link users to more in-depth information than can be presented
on the homepage.

Help Users Find What They Need
4. Emphasize the Site’s Top High-Priority Tasks

Your homepage should offer users a clear starting point for the main one to four tasks
they’ll undertake when visiting your site.

5. Include a Search Input Box

Search is an important part of any big website. When users want to search, they
typically scan the homepage looking for “the little box where I can type,” so your
search should be a box. Make your search box at least 25 characters wide, so it can
accommodate multiple words without obscuring parts of the user’s query.

Reveal Site Content
6. Show Examples of Real Site Content

Don’t just describe what lies beneath the homepage. Specifics beat abstractions, and you
have good stuff. Show some of your best or most recent content.

7. Begin Link Names with the Most Important Keyword

Users scan down the page, trying to find the area that will serve their current goal. Links
are the action items on a homepage, and when you start each link with a relevant
word, you make it easier for scanning eyes to differentiate it from other links on the page.

                                                                                            5
A common violation of this guideline is to start all links with the company name, which
adds little value and impairs users’ ability to quickly find what they need.

8. Offer Easy Access to Recent Homepage Features

Users will often remember articles, products, or promotions that were featured
prominently on the homepage, but they won’t know how to find them once you move the
features inside the site. To help users locate key items, keep a short list of recent features
on the homepage, and supplement it with a link to a permanent archive of all other
homepage features.

Use Visual Design to Enhance, not Define,
Interaction Design
9. Don’t Over-Format Critical Content, Such as Navigation
Areas

You might think that important homepage items require elaborate illustrations, boxes,
and colors. However, users often dismiss graphics as ads, and focus on the parts
of the homepage that look more likely to be useful.

10. Use Meaningful Graphics

Don’t just decorate the page with stock art. Images are powerful communicators when
they show items of interest to users, but will backfire if they seem frivolous or irrelevant.
For example, it’s almost always best to show photos of real people actually connected to
the topic, rather than pictures of models.

Additional Homepage Guidelines
My recent book, Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed, contains the
full list of 113 usability guidelines for homepage design, as well as recommendations for
how to best design 40 common homepage elements to meet users’ expectations.


Kids’ Corner: Website Usability for
Children
Summary:
Our usability study of kids found that they are as easily stumped by confusing websites as
adults. Unlike adults, however, kids tend to view ads as content, and click accordingly.
They also like colorful designs, but demand simple text and navigation.
Millions of children already use the Internet, and millions more are
coming online each year. Many websites specifically target children with
educational or entertainment content, and even mainstream websites are
adding “kids’ corner” sections for children—either as a public service or
to build brand loyalty from an early age.
Despite this growth in users and services, very little is known about how
children actually use websites or how to design sites that will be easy for
                                                                                             6
them to use. Most website designs for kids are based on pure folklore
about how kids supposedly behave—or, at best, by insights gleaned
when designers observe their own children, who are hardly
representative of average kids, typical Internet skills, or common
knowledge about the Web.

Testing Children’s Web Use
To find out how kids really use the Web, we conducted usability studies with 55 children
who varied in age from 6 to 12 (first through fifth graders). We tested 39 kids in the
United States and 16 in Israel, to broaden the international applicability of our
recommendations.
We observed the children interacting with 24 sites designed for children,
and three mainstream sites designed for adults (Amazon, Yahoo!, and
Weather.com). For the targeted sites, we tested some sites specifically
devoted to children, such as Alfy, MaMaMedia, and Sesame Street, and
several kid-oriented subsites produced by mainstream companies, such
as ABC News for Kids and Belmont Bank’s Kids’ Corner.
Even though participants in our study were very young, they often had
the greatest success using websites intended for adults. Sites such as
Amazon and Yahoo! are committed to utter simplicity and compliance
with Web design conventions, and have become so easy to use that they
support little kids very well. In contrast, many of the children’s sites had
complex and convoluted interaction designs that stumped our test users.
As one first-grade boy said, “The Internet is a lot of times BORING because
you can’t find anything when you go on to it.”

Usability Problems Hurt Kids
The idea that children are masters of technology and can defeat any computer-
related difficulty is a myth. Our study found that children are incapable of
overcoming many usability problems. Also, poor usability, combined with
kids’ lack of patience in the face of complexity, resulted in many simply leaving
websites. A fourth-grader said, “When I don’t know what to do on a Web page, I
just go look for something else.”
Also, children don’t like slow downloads any more than adults do. As one
first-grade girl said, “Make it go faster! Maybe if I click it, it will go
faster...”
Young children often have hand-me-down computers, whether at home
(where they often inherit older machines when their parents upgrade) or
at school (where budget constraints mandate keeping machines in
service for many years). Kids also typically have slow connections and
outdated software. Given these limitations, websites must avoid
technical problems or crashes related to access by low-end equipment.
Faced with an error message, kids in our study told us that they see
them a lot, and that the best thing to do is to ignore them or close the
window and find something else to do.
Several types of classic Web usability problems caused difficulties for
the kids in our study:


                                                                                       7
      Unclear navigational confirmation of the user’s location confused users
       both within sites and when leaving them.
      Inconsistent navigation options, where the same destination was referred
       to in different ways, caused users to visit the same feature repeatedly, because
       they didn’t know they had already been there.
      Non-standard interaction techniques caused predictable problems,
       such as making it impossible for users to select their preferred game using a
       “games machine.”
      Lack of perceived clickability affordances, such as overly flat graphics,
       caused users to miss features because they overlooked the links.
      Fancy wording in interfaces confused users and prevented them from
       understanding the available choices.

Age-Appropriate Content
Extensive text was problematic for young children, who are just beginning to read. We
observed severe usability problems when kids were inadvertently thrown into sections
that were written above their current reading level.
Also, kids are keenly aware of their age and differentiate sharply
between material that is appropriate for them and material for older or
younger kids, however close in age they might be. At one website, a six-
year-old said, “This website is for babies, maybe four or five years old.
You can tell because of the cartoons and trains.”

Differences between Children and Adult Users
Our usability findings for kids often differed from those we typically find
when testing adult users. Some of the more striking differences were:
       Animation and sound effects were positive design elements for children;
        they often created a good first impression that encouraged users to stay with a
        site.
     Children were willing to “mine-sweep,” scrubbing the screen with the
        mouse either to find clickable areas or simply to enjoy the sound effects that
        different screen elements played.
     Geographic navigation metaphors worked: Kids liked the pictures of
        rooms, villages, 3D maps, or other simulated environments that served as an
        overview and entry point to various site or subsite features.
     Children rarely scrolled pages and mainly interacted with information that
        was visible above the fold. (We also observed this behavior among adult Web
        users in 1994, but our more recent studies show that adults now tend to scroll
        Web pages.)
     Half of our young users were willing to read instructions; indeed, they
        often preferred to read a paragraph or so of instructions before starting a new
        game. In contrast, most adult users hate instructions and try to use websites
        without having to read about what they are supposed to do.
Most of these differences are related to differences in the online activities of children and
adults. Diverse design elements and multimedia effects tend to work for children. Unlike
adults, who typically use the Web in business settings and for goal-oriented tasks,
children often use the Web for entertainment, though older kids also use it for
schoolwork and community.

                                                                                            8
Advertising Works
The most notable finding in our study was that children click website
advertisements. Unfortunately, they often do so by mistake, thinking ads are just one
more site element. In nine years of testing adults, we can count on the fingers of two
hands the total number of times they’ve clicked website advertising. But kids click
banners. They cannot yet distinguish between content and advertising.
On the contrary, to kids, ads are just one more content source. If a banner contains a
popular character or something that looks like a cool game, they’ll click it. Pokémon,
here we come. (Kids clicked on Pokémon characters even though they were simply
featured in banner ads for other products, rather than as links to a Pokémon site.)
We strongly recommend that parents, educators, and other caretakers
spend time acquainting children with the realities of Internet
advertising and teach them how to recognize ads. Many people already
help their children understand and cope with television commercials, but
such educational efforts seem to overlook Web ads—possibly because
most adults would never dream of clicking them. Adults don’t view Web
ads as a big issue, because they’ve trained themselves to tune out the
ads subconsciously through banner blindness, which continues to
operate even when adults visit children’s sites.
Many of the websites in our study tried to differentiate editorial from
advertising by marking banners with “AD” or “PAID.” This tactic didn’t
work. Kids in our study didn’t notice these subtle markers, but were
attracted to the colorful characters and games in the ad.

Gender Differences
In this study, we found bigger differences between boys and girls than we
usually find when testing adult men and women. Boys were significantly more
annoyed by verbose pages than were girls (40% of the boys complained, compared to 8%
of the girls), possibly because at the ages we tested, boys are not as accomplished at
reading as girls. In contrast, girls complained much more than boys when sites lacked
good instructions (76% of the girls compared to 33% of the boys). Also, boys spent more
time alone with computers, and girls spent more time using computers with a parent.
Despite the differences, most of our conclusions regarding good Web
design for kids hold equally true for boys and girls. Most of the
usability issues relate to human-centered technology use and age-
appropriate design, not to gender differences.
Nonetheless, we strongly recommend that anyone planning to run
usability studies with children strive to include equal numbers of boys
and girls. When studying adult users, we always try to include a
reasonable representation of both genders, but the numbers need not be
identical. Although men and women sometimes differ in the type of
content that interests them, in terms of interaction design, the big issue
is bridging the gap between humans and computers—not how to
accommodate the comparatively smaller differences between the genders.
For kids, however, the differences are bigger and thus there is a greater
need for a balanced set of test participants.

Cool Content, Simple Interaction
                                                                                      9
Children want content that is entertaining, funny, colorful, and uses multimedia effects.
However, for homepage design and navigation systems, the user interface should be
unobtrusive and let kids get to the content as simply as possible. Children enjoy
exploration and games, but it should not be a challenge to operate the website itself. The
content should be cool, but the design must offer high usability or kids will go elsewhere.


Microcontent: How to Write
Headlines, Page Titles, and
Subject Lines
Microcontent needs to be pearls of clarity: you get 40-60 characters to
explain your macrocontent. Unless the title or subject make it absolutely clear
what the page or email is about, users will never open it.
The requirements for online headlines are very different from printed
headlines because they are used differently. The two main differences in
headline use are:
     Online headlines are often displayed out of context: as part of a list of
       articles, in an email program’s list of incoming messages, in a search engine
       hitlist, or in a browser’s bookmark menu or other navigation aid. Some of these
       situations are very out of context: search engine hits can relate to any random
       topic, so users don’t get the benefit of applying background understanding to the
       interpretation of the headline. The same goes for email subjects.
     Even when a headline is displayed together with related content, the difficulty of
       reading online and the reduced amount of information that can be seen in a glance
       make it harder for users to learn enough from the surrounding
       data. In print, a headline is tightly associated with photos, decks, subheads, and
       the full body of the article, all of which can be interpreted in a single glance.
       Online, a much smaller amount of information will be visible in the window, and
       even that information is harder and more unpleasant to read, so people often don’t
       do so. While scanning the list of stories on a site like news.com, users often
       only look at the highlighted headlines and skip most of the summaries.
Because of these differences, the headline text has to stand on its own
and make sense when the rest of the content is not available. Sure, users
can click on the headline to get the full article, but they are too busy to
do so for every single headline they see on the Web. I predict that users
will soon be so deluged with email that they will delete messages unseen
if the subject line doesn’t make sense to them.
If you create listings of other people’s content, it is almost always best to
rewrite their headlines. Very few people currently understand the art of
writing online microcontent that works when placed elsewhere on the
Web. Thus, to serve your users better, you have to do the work yourself.

Guidelines for Microcontent
      Clearly explain what the article (or email) is about in terms that relate to the user.
       Microcontent should be an ultra-short abstract of its associated
       macrocontent.
      Written in plain language: no puns, no “cute” or “clever” headlines.

                                                                                           10
      No teasers that try to entice people to click to find out what the story is about.
       Users have been burned too often on the Web to have time to wait for a page to
       download unless they have clear expectations for what they will get. In print,
       curiosity can get people to turn the page or start reading an article. Online, it’s
       simply too painful for people to do so.
      Skip leading articles like “the” and “a” in email subjects and page titles (but
       do include them in headlines that are embedded within a page). Shorter
       microcontent is more scannable, and since lists are often alphabetized, you don’t
       want your content to be listed under “T” in a confused mess with many other
       pages starting with “the”.
      Make the first word an important, information-carrying one. Results
       in better position in alphabetized lists and facilitates scanning. For example, start
       with the name of the company, person, or concept discussed in an article.
      Do not make all page titles start with the same word: they will be hard to
       differentiate when scanning a list. Move common markers toward the end of the
       line. For example, the title of this page is Microcontent: Headlines and Subject
       Lines (Alertbox Sept. 1998).
      In email sent from your website, make the “From” field clarify the
       customer relationship and reduce the appearance of spam or anonymous
       intrusion (but don’t use the name of the customer service rep. unless the user has
       actually established a relationship with that person: mail from unknown people
       also has a tendency to be deleted and will be harder for users to find in a search).

Examples
Email subject:         Opportunity

   Makes the message seem like spam. A sure way to be deleted unread.

Email subject:         Web Design Conference in Norway

   Sounds like a conference announcement: would be deleted unread by somebody who
   doesn’t plan to travel to Norway any time soon. Better subject line: Invitation:
   Keynote speaker at Norwegian Web Design Conference.
Email from line: musicblvd@musicblvd.com
Email subject: Your Music Boulevard Order
   Not a horrible subject, but it would have been better to say Music Boulevard Order
   Shipped to You Today (starting with an information-carrying word and being more
   precise than the original). The from line should have included a human-readable
   name like Music Boulevard Customer Service

Page title:      Big Blue and Wall Street too

   Probably has something to do with investing in IBM, but people who don’t know that
   nickname would be at a complete loss and would never be attracted to clicking on this
   headline. Even people who do realize that the story will be about IBM don’t get told
   what’s new or interesting in the article.

Page title:      Reading your PC



                                                                                         11
   Say again? What can this possibly be about? This is a real example (as are all the
   others) from a major U.S. newspaper. It probably worked fine in print, but not in a
   listing of headlines on a third-party website.

Page title:      Sound Card Competition Heats Up

   When shown on a computer-related site, this is a great headline. When placed out of
   context it may be better to add a qualifier: Sound Card Competition Increases in PC
   Market. Note that the page title will still work if the last part is chopped off in some
   listings.


How Users Read on the Web
They don’t.
People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the
page, picking out individual words and sentences. In a recent study
John Morkes and I found that 79 percent of our test users always
scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-
word.
As a result, Web pages have to employ scannable text, using
    highlighted keywords (hypertext links serve as one form of highlighting;
      typeface variations and color are others)
    meaningful sub-headings (not “clever” ones)
    bulleted lists
    one idea per paragraph (users will skip over any additional ideas if they are not
      caught by the first few words in the paragraph)
    the inverted pyramid style, starting with the conclusion.
    half the word count (or less) than conventional writing
We found that credibility is important for Web users, since it is unclear
who is behind information on the Web and whether a page can be
trusted. Credibility can be increased by high-quality graphics, good
writing, and use of outbound hypertext links. Links to other sites show
that the authors have done their homework and are not afraid to let
readers visit other sites.
Users detested “marketese”; the promotional writing style with boastful
subjective claims (“hottest ever”) that currently is prevalent on the Web.
Web users are busy: they want to get the straight facts. Also, credibility
suffers when users clearly see that the site exaggerates.

Measuring the Effect of Improved Web
Writing
To measure the effect of some of the content guidelines we had identified, we developed
five different versions of the same website (same basic information; different wording;
same site navigation). We then had users perform the same tasks with the different sites.
As shown in the table, measured usability was dramatically higher for the concise
version (58% better) and for the scannable version (47% better). And when we combined
three ideas for improved writing style into a single site, the result was truly stellar:
124% better usability.
                                                                                         12
                                                                    Usability
                                                                 Improvement
Site Version                 Sample Paragraph                     (relative to
                                                                     control
                                                                   condition)
                 Nebraska is filled with internationally
Promotional
                 recognized attractions that draw large
writing
                 crowds of people every year, without fail. In
(control
                 1996, some of the most popular places
condition)
                 were Fort Robinson State Park (355,000
using the                                                              0%
                 visitors), Scotts Bluff National Monument
“marketese”                                                       (by definition)
                 (132,166), Arbor Lodge State Historical
found on
                 Park & Museum (100,000), Carhenge
many
                 (86,598), Stuhr Museum of the Prairie
commercial
                 Pioneer (60,002), and Buffalo Bill Ranch
websites
                 State Historical Park (28,446).
                 In 1996, six of the best-attended
Concise text
                 attractions in Nebraska were Fort
with about
                 Robinson State Park, Scotts Bluff National
half the word
count as the
                 Monument, Arbor Lodge State Historical               58%
                 Park & Museum, Carhenge, Stuhr Museum
control
                 of the Prairie Pioneer, and Buffalo Bill
condition
                 Ranch State Historical Park.
                 Nebraska is filled with internationally
                 recognized attractions that draw large
                 crowds of people every year, without fail. In
                 1996, some of the most popular places
                 were:
Scannable
layout
                       Fort Robinson State Park (355,000
using the
                        visitors)
same text as
                       Scotts Bluff National Monument
the control
                        (132,166)
                                                                      47%
condition in a
                       Arbor Lodge State Historical Park &
layout that
                        Museum (100,000)
facilitated
                       Carhenge (86,598)
scanning
                       Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer
                        (60,002)
                       Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical
                        Park (28,446).

Objective        Nebraska has several attractions. In 1996,
language         some of the most-visited places were Fort
using neutral    Robinson State Park (355,000 visitors),
rather than      Scotts Bluff National Monument (132,166),
subjective,      Arbor Lodge State Historical Park &                  27%
boastful, or     Museum (100,000), Carhenge (86,598),
exaggerated      Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer
language         (60,002), and Buffalo Bill Ranch State
(otherwise the   Historical Park (28,446).

                                                                                13
same as the
control
condition)
                In 1996, six of the most-visited places in
Combined        Nebraska were:
version
using all           Fort Robinson State Park
three               Scotts Bluff National Monument
improvements        Arbor Lodge State Historical Park &
in writing            Museum
                                                                              124%
style together:     Carhenge
concise,            Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer
scannable,          Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical
and objective         Park

It was somewhat surprising to us that usability was improved by a good
deal in the objective language version (27% better). We had expected that
users would like this version better than the promotional site (as indeed
they did), but we thought that the performance metrics would have been
the same for both kinds of language. As it turned out, our four
performance measures (time, errors, memory, and site structure) were
also better for the objective version than for the promotional version. Our
conjecture to explain this finding is that promotional language imposes
a cognitive burden on users who have to spend resources on filtering
out the hyperbole to get at the facts. When people read a paragraph that
starts “Nebraska is filled with internationally recognized attractions,”
their first reaction is no, it’s not, and this thought slows them down and
distracts them from using the site.


Search: Visible and Simple
Summary:
Search is the user’s lifeline for mastering complex websites. The best designs offer a
simple search box on the home page and play down advanced search and scoping.
Users love search for two reasons:
   Search lets users control their own destiny and assert independence from
      websites’ attempt to direct how they use the Web. Testing situations routinely
      validate this. A typical comment is: “I don’t want to have to navigate this site the
      way they want me to. I just want to find the thing I’m looking for.” This is why
      many users go straight to the home page search function.
   Search is also users’ escape hatch when they are stuck in navigation.
      When they can’t find a reasonable place to go next, they often turn to the site’s
      search function. This is why you should make search available from every
      page on the site; you cannot predict where users will be when they decide they
      are lost.

Search Should be a Box


                                                                                         14
Users often move fast and furiously when they’re looking for search. As we’ve seen in
recent studies, they typically scan the home page looking for “the little box where I
can type.” We’ve long known that users scan, and the implications are clear:
     On home pages, search should be a type-in field and not a link.
     The search input field should be wide enough to contain the typical query; if
      the box is too small, the query will scroll and diminish usability.
When I changed the useit.com home page to include a search box instead of a link,
search engine use increased by 91%. Small change, big effect (as is often the
outcome when implementing usability guidelines).
(Interior pages may use a search link if they have a very simple design;
complex interior pages should use a search box.)

Query Reformulation: Not
Given that search is becoming old hat on the Internet, you might think users would
develop advanced search skills. Not so.
Typical users are very poor at query reformulation: If they don’t get good
results on the first try, later search attempts rarely succeed. In fact, they
often give up. We recently studied a large group of people as they
shopped on various e-commerce sites. Their search success rate was:
                              First query:   51%
                                Second query: 32%
                             Third query: 18%
In other words, if users don’t find the result with their first query, they
are progressively less and less likely to succeed with additional searches.
Many users don’t even bother: In our study, almost half the users whose
first search failed gave up immediately.
There is no question that we need to develop methods to help users hone
their searches. Probably the only long-term solution is for the school
systems to teach kids strategies for query reformulation. In the short
term, search interfaces could show users easy ways to extend queries.
Realistically, though, search design should assume that most users
won’t be willing or able to refine their queries. Given this, the emphasis
should be on increasing users’ success on the first attempt.
Another reason to emphasize early success is that users typically make
very quick judgments about a website’s value based on the quality of one
or two sets of search results. If the list looks like junk, they may abandon
the site completely. At a minimum, they’ll forgo the site’s search in favor
of external search engines like Google.

Advanced Search: Not
In our recent search study, the mean query length was 2.0 words. Other studies also show
a preponderance of simple searches. Most users cannot use advanced search or Boolean
query syntax.
This has two implications for search design:
    Emphasize your search engine’s ability to handle single-word
      queries and very short multi-word queries and still produce high-quality results.

                                                                                        15
      Do not offer advanced search from the home page. Advanced search
       leads users into trouble, as they invariably use it wrong. When it makes sense,
       offer advanced search as an option users can link to from the search results page:
       “Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try advanced search.”

Scoped Search: Maybe
Scoped search lets users limit the search to results from specific areas of the site (the
search scope). In general, this is dangerous. Users often overlook the scope, or they
think they are in a different site area than the one they are actually searching.
However, as websites continue to grow and offer multiple services in a
single site, my attitude toward scoped search is changing. I now believe
scoping can be sufficiently useful if you offer it in areas of the site that
are both clearly delimitated and address specific problems.
If you choose to use scoped search, I recommend following a few basic
rules:
     Set the default search scope to “all” (search the entire site).
     When the user chooses a narrow search scope, explicitly state the scope at the top
       of the results page.
     Offer one-click access to enlarge the scope. It is especially important to give users
       a highly visible way of searching the entire site if their scoped search fails to
       return any results.
     If a search returns too many results, give users suggestions for limiting the scope.


First Results Page is Golden
Users almost never look beyond the second page of search results. It is thus essential that
your search prioritize results in a useful way and that all the most important hits appear
on the first page.
Also, look through the most common queries in your search engine logs
and determine the optimal landing page for each common query. You can
then manually tweak the search engine to show these pages as the #1
hit.


Getting Update Notifications for
the Alertbox
You can subscribe to an email service that will notify you when a new Alertbox column
becomes available. You will receive one brief message every two weeks. Most
notification messages will simply contain a short summary of the new column with a
pointer to its URL.

Privacy Policy
Email addresses and other personal information will never be sold, rented, or otherwise
disclosed to anybody.
The mailing list is password-protected and is only used for one-way
announcements from Jakob Nielsen. No spam, no discussions.
                                                                                            16
How to Subscribe
Send an email message to join-
alertbox@laser.sparklist.com

There is no need to write anything in the message: it is read by a mailbot,
not a human.

How to Unsubscribe
At the bottom of each message from this mailing list is a special email address that is
encoded with your subscriber information. Simply send a blank email to that address, and
you will be removed from the mailing list.
Since this special unsubscribe address is different for each member of
the list, I cannot print it here. Instead, look at the bottom of the latest
email message you received from the list.

Sample Newsletter
To:        “Alertbox Announcement List”
           From: alertbox@nngroup.com (Jakob Nielsen)

           Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox for August 20 is now online at:
             http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20000820.html

           Mailing list content must be ultra-short.
           Provide separate email addresses for subscribing and unsubscribing and
           include info on how to get off in every mailing list message.
           Improved usability increased subscriptions by 128% in one case study.

           ---
           To subscribe send a blank email to join-alertbox@laser.sparklist.com
           To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-alertbox@laser.sparklist.com
           [You are currently subscribed as Donald@duck.com]



Supporting Multiple-Location
Users
Summary:
About half of the users now access the Internet from more than one location. Despite the
implications of this for service design, many systems assume that users remain bound to a
single computer.
Deeply buried inside a recent report from the U.S. Department of
Commerce is an interesting data nugget with profound implications for
the future of the Internet: In September 2001, 45% of U.S. Internet users
accessed the Net from both their home and outside locations (typically
work). By contrast, in 1998, only 20% of Internet users accessed the Net
from more than one location.
In only three years, Internet use has changed from being
overwhelmingly a single-location activity to being a multiple-location
                                                                                      17
activity for almost half of all users. Given that the census data is
already six months old, I wouldn’t be surprised if the percentage of
multi-location users had increased to more than half by now.

Putting It Together
I know people who synchronize their office and home PCs by keeping
both synchronized to a brick they strap to their belt and carry back and forth.
The brick may be called a Palm Pilot, but it’s still as close to the Stone Age as you come
with modern technology.
Both my Blackberry PDA and my main workstation have always-on
Internet connections. So why is it that the only way I can keep their
address books and calendars synchronized is to plop the Blackberry into
a primitive cradle? Why not send updates between the machines when
the network has spare capacity?
Multi-computer user interfaces require seamless and invisible device
coordination. If we rely on users to take explicit action, we’ll always
encounter situations where they’ve forgotten to do so, and the resulting
lack of synchronization will create odd behavior in the overall system.
The network is the user experience, and we should begin designing
individual components to fit into this larger whole. Right now, it comes
as a big surprise each time a piece of technology—whether hardware,
software, website, or Intranet service—has to work with more than one
other piece.

Design Implications
The significant increase in users who access the Internet from multiple locations has
several key implications for system design.
      Recognize individuals, not computers. Cookies are not a long-term solution
       for personalization and simplified log-in.
      Preserve settings and preferences across computers and devices.
      Synchronize data automatically. Or, at a minimum, offer users
       synchronization features.
      Create a seamless task flow hand-off as the user moves from one
       access point to another. Users should be able to stop in the middle of a transaction
       and resume it from a different computer without having to redo the initial steps.
      Provide a scalable UI. Some interface elements should appear only on full-
       featured devices, like desktop PCs. Nonetheless, the user experience must be
       recognizably the same, even on mobile systems and other less-capable devices
       that support only a UI subset.
      Abandon the firewall fantasy. Users need to access sensitive files from
       their laptops and home computers, so they transfer these files to their local hard
       disks. High-level CIA officials have done this; you can bet that average business
       professionals in your company violate security as well—or they wouldn’t get any
       work done. We must move to a security model in which all information is
       encrypted at all times, except when displayed on the monitor and viewed by an
       authorized user (possibly authenticated through eye-scanning).

More Users = More Need for Usability
                                                                                        18
Another interesting piece of data in the Department of Commerce report: An estimated
54% of the U.S. population used the Internet in September 2001. This is a
dramatic increase from the 33% reported three years earlier.
At last, half of the people in the U.S. are online, and other rich countries
are recording similar statistics. We are still far from having everybody
online, of course, and we continue to face the problem of slower growth
in poorer countries.
Basically, we now have the entire elite online: Almost all early adopters,
technology enthusiasts, and highly educated people use the Internet. The
next decade will bring the usability challenge of making the Internet
sufficiently easy for the other half of the population to use. Making
something easy for a college graduate is a piece of cake compared to
making it easy for a high-school drop-out, but that’s both our challenge
and opportunity in the days to come.



Tagline Blues: What’s the Site
About?
Summary:
A website’s tagline must explain what the company does and what makes it unique
among competitors. Two questions can help you assess your own tagline: Would it work
just as well for competitors? Would any company ever claim the opposite?
Well-designed B2C sites can easily explain their products and services in
text that is short enough that users will actually read it online.
AutoTrader.com, for example, tells us to “Search the largest inventory of
cars and trucks on the Internet. More than 1.5 million listings, updated
daily.” Given this information, most people can figure out what the site
does.
Relative to B2C, most B2B sites sell products or services that are much
more complex and have less connection to everyday experience.
Summarizing a website’s purpose is thus much harder in B2B than in
B2C. That’s why they pay copywriters the big bucks, or so you would
think. On closer examination, it seems that most sites pay their
copywriters to obscure the site’s purpose rather than state it clearly.

Obscurity in action
Here are the taglines from four websites: Angara, Calico, CSG Systems, and
E.piphany:
       Creating customers online
       eBusiness for leaders: Enabling corporations to control the key elements of
        eBusiness selling
      Harness the power of convergence with (company’s name)
      Software for the customer economy: next-generation CRM software
Can you match the taglines with the company they describe? Can you
tell which company does what? Is there a difference between these companies? Do you
care?

                                                                                   19
Regarding the first question: I listed the taglines in the same order as I
listed the companies above them. But the real point here, as you no
doubt discovered, is that these taglines are basically content-free word
count. They do nothing more than clutter up their respective home
pages.

Getting it (half) right
I collected the above taglines a few months ago. As I prepared to write this column, I
revisited the sites and found that CSG Systems had dropped the tagline “Harness the
power of convergence.” The company is now wisely willing to tell us what they
actually sell: “customer care and billing solutions.” Much more specific, and thus
more likely to harness the attention of stressed-out business executives looking at the
homepage in search of products.
The new CSG Systems website actually does several things right. The
home page is reasonably simple, despite the annoying Flash animation
that will likely distract visitors. The main text looks like it’s written based
on my guidelines for online content: Short paragraphs, scannable layout,
a bulleted list:
        CSG Systems, Inc. is a world-leading provider of
        customer care and billing solutions for the convergent
        communications industry—voice, video, and data.
         Our solutions are:

                Scaleable and Robust
                Modular and Integrated
                Efficient and Cost-effective

Unfortunately, when you read the words, you realize that the company is
still paying copywriters to avoid communicating with prospective
customers. Note how the “solutions” are robust, integrated, efficient, and
cost-effective. As opposed to what? A product that was buggy,
fragmented, inefficient, and expensive? Given that a website would never
advertise such a product, stating the opposite has zero informative value.

Tagline guidelines
Users decide quickly whether to stay or leave a site. To assess whether your homepage
communicates effectively to visitors in the crucial first 10 seconds, follow two
simple guidelines.
      First, collect the taglines from your own site and your three strongest competitors.
       Print them in a bulleted list without identifying the company names. Ask yourself
       whether you can tell which company does what. More important,
       ask a handful of people outside your company the same question.
     Second, look at how you present the company in the main copy on the home page.
       Rewrite the text to say exactly the opposite. Would any company
       ever say that? If not, you’re not saying much with your copy, either.
When I’m attempting to build a shortlist of potential vendors, the experience of looking
at home pages reminds me of the frustration I usually feel walking a tradeshow
floor. I recently attended an intranet conference that had booths from at least 20
                                                                                         20
different search engine providers. I simply could not tell the difference between these
companies. Who did what? Which technologies would make sense for which type of
problem? Which products would fit the budget for which projects? The booths were
essentially random designs. While they clearly cost huge amounts of money, they failed
to communicate anything distinct to a tired tradeshow visitor pacing up and down the
aisles.
Think about your home page as analogous to a tradeshow booth. Why do
you stop at some booths and skip others? And, no: having a live
magician is not the answer for your home page. Clearly saying what
you do and why users should care is the way to go.




Usability for Senior Citizens
Summary:
The Internet enriches many seniors’ lives, but most websites violate usability guidelines,
making the sites difficult for seniors to use. Current websites are twice as hard to use for
seniors than for non-seniors.
Seniors are one of the fastest growing demographics on the Web. The
United States alone has an estimated 4.2 million Internet users over the
age of 65. Indeed, all industrialized countries have huge populations of
senior citizens, many of whom have substantial assets. Although they are
typically retired, seniors lead very active lives and often have great
interest in modern technologies such as the Internet, which gives them
another method to communicate and stay informed.
In our study, email was the main Internet application used by seniors.
Our participants used the Web mainly for:
     Research
     News
     Tracking investments
     Researching medication and medical conditions
     And, to a lesser extent, to shop and bank online
Indeed, our study participants used the Web to read about and research a wide variety of
hobbies and special interests, ranging from genealogy to cooking, war strategy, and
musical instruments. Taken together, reading about such hobbies constituted a major use
of the Web: The diversity of specialized sites is just as much a killer app for
seniors as it is for other users.

Research with Seniors Using Websites
To learn how seniors use the Web, we conducted three series of usability tests:
      A measurement study, using three websites and a Web-wide task, with 20 seniors
       and a control group of 20 users between the ages of 21 and 55.
      A qualitative study with 20 U.S. seniors using 10 U.S. sites.
      A qualitative study with four seniors in Japan using four Japanese sites (to assess
       the international applicability of our findings).



                                                                                          21
We define “seniors” as people over the age of 65. Most of our test users
were in their 70s, but we also included some people who were 80 years or older, and
several people between 65 and 69.

Usability Metrics Twice as High for Non-
Seniors
In the quantitative study, we asked users in both groups to perform the same four tasks:
       Fact-finding
       Buying an item
       Retrieving information
       Comparing and contrasting
The following table shows the measurements of four usability attributes averaged across
the four tasks.

                                                                            Control
                                                          Seniors
                                                                             Group
                                                        (65+ Years)
                                                                            (21-55)
Success Rate (task completed correctly)                    52.9%              78.2%
Time on Task (min:sec)                                     12:33               7:14
Errors (erroneous actions per task)                          4.6               0.6
Subjective Rating (scale: 1=low, 7=high)                     3.7               4.6
Overall Usability (normalized geo. mean)          100%           222%
The differences between seniors and the control group are all highly
significant.
Normalizing the usability metrics so that the seniors’ scores are the
baseline value of 100% in all cases leads to an estimated overall usability
of 222% for non-seniors. (Averaging computed as the geometric mean.) In
other words, overall usability was slightly more than twice as good for
non-seniors as it was for seniors.

Why Usability is Lower for Seniors
Websites tend to be produced by young designers, who often assume that all users have
perfect vision and motor control, and know everything about the Web. These assumptions
rarely hold, even when the users are not seniors. However, as indicated by our usability
metrics, seniors are hurt more by usability problems than younger users. Among the
obvious physical attributes often affected by the human aging process are eyesight,
precision of movement, and memory.
Also, many seniors retired without having used computers and the
Internet extensively during their working careers. Thus, they have not
necessarily learned good conceptual models of how these technologies
work, which makes it more difficult to understand their quirks. For
example, we observed several users who did not differentiate clearly
between a website’s search box and the browser’s URL box. After all,
both are input fields that you type in when you want to go elsewhere. The
lack of experience with good conceptual models is obviously not
fundamental to human biology, and may disappear as the current
workforce retires.
                                                                       22
Our testing identified many instances of poor design that compounded
to make the Web more than twice as hard for seniors to use.
Complying with the guidelines for designing for seniors would remove
many such usability problems. And, while Web usability might still be
slightly better for younger users, the differences could be reduced
drastically.

Readability and Clickability
The most widely known principle for supporting seniors’ computer use is to support
larger font sizes than those younger users prefer. The principle may be well known,
and it was indeed confirmed by our study, but still, it is frequently violated by sites that
freeze text at a tiny font size.
Sites that target seniors should use at least 12-point type as the
default. And all sites, whether or not they specifically target seniors,
should let users increase text size as desired—especially if the site opts
for a smaller default font size.
For hypertext links, large text is especially important for two main
reasons: 1) to ensure readability of these essential design components,
and 2) to make them more prominent targets for clicking. You should
also avoid tightly clustered links that are not separated by white space.
Doing so will decrease erroneous clicks and increase the speed at which
users hit the correct link. This rule also applies to command buttons and
other interaction objects, all of which need to be reasonably large to be
easy to click.
Pull-down menus, hierarchically walking menus, and other moving
interface elements cause problems for seniors who are not always
steady with the mouse. Better to use static user interface widgets and
designs that do not require pixel-perfect pointing.

Supportive and Forgiving Design
When websites violate the guideline to use different colors to clearly distinguish
between visited and unvisited links, seniors easily lose track of where
they have been. We’ve certainly seen the same problem among all age groups: It’s
confusing when websites change the standard link colors, and it’s particularly confusing
when the same color is used for all links, whether or not you have visited the destination
page. However, seniors have a harder time remembering which parts of a website they
have visited before, so they are more likely to waste time repeatedly returning to the same
place.
Seniors also have a harder time using unforgiving search engines and
forms. We saw users thwarted because they typed hyphens in their
search queries, and punished because they used hyphens or parentheses
in a telephone or credit card number.
Error messages were often hard to read, either because the wording was
obscure or imprecise, or the message’s placement on the page was easily
overlooked among a profusion of other design elements. Simplicity is
even more important than usual when seniors encounter error handling:
Your message should focus on the error, explain it clearly, and make it
as easy as possible to fix. Also, as much as possible, website tasks
should adapt to seniors and their preferred way of doing things. After
                                                                        23
decades of writing telephone numbers in a certain way, it’s not a very
nice experience to come across a form that insists on a different format.

Usability Increases Satisfaction
Seniors strongly prefer those websites that are easiest for them to use. The
correlation between the success score for our test tasks and users’ subsequent subjective
rating of the sites was very strong: r = 0.78, which is higher than we have found in most
other studies, though not as high as the 0.95 we found in our equivalent study of users
with disabilities.
Usability for seniors is important, and not just so that they can perform
a task aimed at a one-time purchase. By focusing on improving usability
for seniors, you can increase their satisfaction and the odds of forming a
long-term relationship.
Intranets should also cater to seniors. Most companies have employees
in their 60s, and many big companies have special extranets for retirees
that provide online benefits information and help the company maintain
contact with former employees.
Besides the business reasoning, we all have a very personal interest in
increasing usability for seniors: It’s the one user category we’re all
likely to join one day.
When it works for them, the Internet is already an enriching part of
many seniors’ lives. Websites can become much more approachable,
however, by following the simple design guidelines in our new report. If
you consider these guidelines from the start, implementing them will
rarely add to the cost of a Web design or intranet project. Also, many of
the guidelines for increasing usability for seniors help other users as
well.

What Makes
                               a
                                   Good
                                   Home Page

As the number of people with access to the World Wide Web continues
to increase exponentially, the number of personal Home Pages is
exploding as well. I’m particularly intrigued by what sorts of material
people choose to put on their Home Pages, and how they present it. It’s
one thing for Time-Warner to set up a site to publicize their magazines,
or for crazed groupies to put up a page of information about Models, Inc.
Personal Home Pages are much more like the clichéd box of chocolates.
As with the desktop publishing revolution, individuals suddenly have
access to powerful tools for the mass dissemination of information; the
kind of tools that previously were only available to experts and
specialists. The result, in both cases, has been some wonderfully
valuable and creative work—and a whole lot of pure dreck.
                                                                         24
So the question arises—what are the qualities that make a good Home
Page? At the technical level, there are several HTML style guides that
discuss proper syntax, and how to make sure a page displays properly.
My interest is at a more abstract level. I’ve been spending a good deal of
time in recent weeks surfing the Web looking for outstanding personal
Home Pages. Here are some thoughts on what characterizes the best
Home Pages, and what to avoid.
   A Home page should be more than just a Hotlist. Far too many pages are simply
   “my cool links” and nothing else of consequence. Comprehensive Web directories out
   there such as Yahoo and the several excellent Web search engines are generally much
   better for this than any one person’s page. And what’s the point of going to a person’s
   individual page if all you see is a terse listing of the places on the Web that person has
   surfed recently? I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t put hotlists or links in your
   personal pages. The point is that what makes a Home Page truly distinctive is the
   material on that page, not the other pages it links to. Of the pages that do feature lists
   of links prominantly, the best are the ones that add some value by providing helpful
   descriptions or grouping sites in some intelligent way.
      Layout and Design. Good pages don’t overuse inline images for
      their own sake, and have a consistent layout and organization. The
      more extensive the page or pages, the more important it is to have
      navigational aids like “what’s new” pages and tables of contents.
      Also, don’t go overboard with slow-loading graphics, and optimize
      the graphics you do use by making them smaller and using fewer
      colors.
      Original Content. This overlaps to some extent with the first
      point, but is worth elaborating. One of the main things that makes
      a Home Page good is that it is unique. Given the vastness of the
      Net, what makes pages unique is generally the personal material
      that the author brings to the table.
      Depth. The best Home Pages always give you a sense that there is
      something beneath the surface, and that exploration will be
      rewarded with new discoveries. This doesn’t necessarily mean
      dozens of different pages; it’s a matter of using hypertext in an
      intelligent way to expand the impact of the material you do have.
      Creativity. The HTML markup language gives everyone creating
      Web pages the same set of basic tools. Good Home Pages combine
      those tools in new and innovative ways, and give Web surfers a
      reason to check them out rather than some other, similar pages.
      The Web gives you an opportunity to have your work viewed by
      literally thousands, or even millions of other people around the
      world—make the most of it!
      Personality. Your home page is your window on the Internet. It
      should give people viewing it a sense of who you are. This can
      mean the obvious, like biographical information, or more subtle
      forms of content that demonstrate your interests and outlook on
      life. Don’t feel that you have to do the same thing some other “cool”
      page did; make your home page YOURS.
I should state that I don’t hold my own page up as a perfect example.
Though I’m trying to implement the ideas I describe here, I think my
pages still need work. But I’m interested to hear what you have to say.
Send me your comments! If you are interested in some of the design

                                                                                          25
decisions that went into my pages, I now have a page specifically on why
my pages look the way they do.


Why Web Users Scan Instead of
Read
(Sidebar to Jakob Nielsen’s column on how users read on the Web)

More research is needed to truly know why 79 percent of Web users scan
rather than read, but here are four plausible reasons:
    Reading from computer screens is tiring for the eyes and about 25
      percent slower than reading from paper. No wonder people attempt to minimize
      the number of words they read. To the extent this reason explains users’ behavior,
      they should read more when we get high-resolution, high-scanrate monitors in
      five years since lab studies have shown such screens to have the same readability
      as paper.
    The Web is a user-driven medium where users feel that they have to move
      on and click on things. One of our users said: “If I have to sit here and read the
      whole article, then I’m not productive.” People want to feel that they are active
      when they are on the Web.
    Each page has to compete with hundreds of millions of other pages
      for the user’s attention. Users don’t know whether this page is the one
      they need or whether some other page would be better: they are not willing to
      commit the investment of reading the page in the hope that it will be good. Most
      pages are in fact not worth the users’ time, so experience encourages them to rely
      on information foraging. Instead of spending a lot of time on a single page, users
      move between many pages and try to pick the most tasty segments of each.
    Modern life is hectic and people simply don’t have time to work too hard for
      their information. As one of our test users said, “If this [long page with blocks of
      text] happened to me at work, where I get 70 emails and 50 voicemails a day, then
      that would be the end of it. If it doesn’t come right out at me, I’m going to give up
      on it.”




                                                                                        26

				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Categories:
Stats:
views:25
posted:5/25/2010
language:English
pages:26