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User Interface Engineering

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1.
#37049

The $300 Million Button

It's hard to imagine a form that could be simpler: two fields, two buttons, and one link. Yet, it turns out this form was preventing customers from purchasing products from a major e-commerce site, to the tune of $300,000,000 a year. What was even worse: the designers of the site had no clue there was even a problem.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2009). Articles>Web Design>Usability>Forms

2.
#33853

AJAX Aids Accessibility?

Yes, if you do it right, using Ajax techniques can improve accessibility. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Ajax is like most techniques and technologies on the web—they are what you make of them.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2009). Articles>Web Design>Accessibility>Ajax

3.
#23062

Are the Product Lists on Your Site Reducing Sales?   (PDF)

You can increase sales on your site as much as 225% by offering sufficient product information to your customers at the time they need it. One way to do this is to develop product lists that don't require shoppers to bounce back-and-forth between the list and individual product pages.

User Interface Engineering (2004). Design>Web Design>Usability>E Commerce

4.
#14211

Are There Users Who Always Search?

Web designers often tell us that they spend a great deal of their limited time and resources working to improve their on-site search engines because, they believe, there are some people who always rely on the search engine to reach their target content. They find further support for this assumption from Jakob Nielsen who, in his book, 'Designing Web Usability,' asserts that more than half of all users demonstrate 'search-dominant' tendencies by going right to the search engine when they first visit a web site looking for content.

User Interface Engineering (2002). Design>Web Design>Usability>Search

5.
#14191

The Art of Being Human

Site visitors crave the sense that someone is there, within and behind your Web pages, your emails and newsletters. Dealing with the bare technology of online interactions is a cold experience for many, or even most of us. It makes us feel anxious. Technology isn't warm. It has no heart. It neither understands us, nor cares for us. For many Web sites, whether for businesses or organizations, we simply plug in and play the bare technology - the super-duper means of information delivery. All the site visitor sees and feels is the design, the interface, the links and the clicks. The experience is about as warm and human as banking with an ATM machine.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2002). Articles>Web Design>User Centered Design>Usability

6.
#33230

As the Page Scrolls

Users say they don’t like to scroll. As a result, many designers try to keep their web pages short. But one of the most significant findings of our research on web-site usability is that users are perfectly willing to scroll. However, they’ll only do it if the page gives them strong clues that scrolling will help them find what they’re looking for.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (1998). Articles>Web Design>Usability

7.
#38132

Beans and Noses

Over the years, I’ve received a lot of great advice. One piece of advice I keep coming back to is about managing expectations. It came from an old friend, just a few days after I’d started my consulting practice. He was a seasoned consultant himself and I had asked him what I should know, just starting out. He told me his First Rule of Consulting: No matter how much you try, you can’t stop people from sticking beans up their nose.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2011). Articles>Usability>User Centered Design

8.
#10574

Branding and Usability

Many web sites exist primarily to create or strengthen the brand for a product or service. We’re finding that a site’s usability can dramatically affect branding. And the graphical aspects of the site — such as logos or evocative pictures — have much less effect on branding than we expected.

User Interface Engineering (1999). Articles>Usability>Web Design

9.
#35320

Breaking Up Large Documents for the Web - Part 1

To present content on the web in the amount that most people want: think “topic,” not “book”; break large documents into topics and subtopics.

Redish, Janice C. 'Ginny'. User Interface Engineering (2009). Articles>Web Design>Information Design

10.
#35321

Breaking Up Large Documents for the Web - Part 2

One page or separate pages? When faced with that decision, ask yourself these questions: How much do people want in one visit? How connected is the information? Am I overloading my site visitors? How long is the web page? What’s the download time? Will people want to print? How much will they want to print?

Redish, Janice C. 'Ginny'. User Interface Engineering (2009). Articles>Web Design>Information Design>Writing

11.
#10584

Bridging Conceptual Gaps

Many usability problems are instances of what we call 'conceptual gaps.' A conceptual gap arises because of some difference between the user’s mental model of the application and how the application actually works.If the gap is large enough, it can stop the user’s work. For example, a user who wants to search the web for free local concerts may not know how to formulate a query that will yield this information. The gap between the search engine’s syntax and the user’s understanding of that syntax may prevent the user from accomplishing their goal.

User Interface Engineering (1996). Articles>Usability>User Interface

12.
#37054

Browse vs. Search in Application Navigation

When I gave my own UIE Virtual Seminar last year on Navigation, I got a question from one of the attendees. He said that it was a requirement at his company that the user be able to get to any screen in the product (and there were 1,000+) with no more than 2 clicks. I enjoyed the challenge of thinking about how I'd do it. At the time, I was imagining a massive Site Map of the application, but now I think that perhaps another way to satisfy that requirement would be to implement the kind of searching that Apple has.

Rivers, Hagan. User interface Engineering (2010). Articles>Documentation>Online>Help

13.
#20676

The CAA: A Wicked Good Design Technique

Discusses Category Agreement Analysis, a card-sorting technique to help create usable information architectures.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2003). Articles>Information Design>Content Strategy>Card Sorting

14.
#34562

Components, Patterns, and Frameworks! Oh My!

In our research, we've found that teams that build out a re-use strategy see tangible benefits: They are more likely to get a completed design sooner, with all the little nuances and details that make for a great experience. Their designs are more likely to meet users expectations by behaving consistently across the entire functionality. Plus, the teams iterate faster (always a good thing), giving them a chance to play with the design while it's still malleable.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2009). Articles>Project Management>Collaboration>Methods

15.
#30297

Crappy Personas vs. Robust Personas

If you're just going to guess on the personas, why bother? Just design for yourself, like the 37Signals team does. However, when you do the field studies, you create relationships with the people in your research. You can return to those people and ask them questions. You can learn about the things they do.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2007). Articles>User Centered Design>Methods>Personas

16.
#14202

The Customer Sieve

We've learned that using a web site is a progressive process. Each user transitions from one stage to the next, as they work to accomplish their goal. The most pronounced transitions we've seen are on e-commerce sites. When we watch shoppers focusing on buying a product, we can clearly see each stage and when the transitions fail or succeed. By understanding the stages and how they work, we can learn a lot about building better sites.

User Interface Engineering (2002). Design>Web Design>User Experience>E Commerce

17.
#14197

Design for Community: An Interview with Derek M. Powazek

Derek M. Powazek has worked on community features for Netscape, Nike, and Sony, along with creating the community sites, {fray}, Kvetch!, and SF Stories. Christine Perfetti, a consultant at User Interface Engineering, recently talked with Derek about his experience. Here is what he had to say about creating effective online communities.

Perfetti, Christine. User Interface Engineering (2002). Articles>Web Design>Community Building

18.
#19749

Design Patterns: An Evolutionary Step to Managing Complex Sites

When your organization's web site or intranet has hundreds of contributors, how do you ensure that every page is high quality and extremely usable? Especially, if these contributors have never designed a web page before? This is a problem that many of our clients are facing and they've tried a myriad of solutions, such as centralized approval processes, standardized templates, and style guides, all without success. However, the one solution that really excites us is now gaining a lot of attention -- design patterns.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering. Design>Web Design>Information Design

19.
#14200

Designing A New Information Architecture: An interview with Peter Merholz of Adaptive Path

Last year, Adaptive Path, working with interactive media agency Lot21, took on a challenging project -- the redesign of three PeopleSoft sites. The redesign involved over 40,000 pages as well as 40 divergent opinions from stakeholders! After four and a half months, the site's information architecture and navigation were transformed to the accolades of both PeopleSoft and their users. We recently interviewed Peter about this project.

User Interface Engineering (2002). Design>Information Design>Web Design

20.
#30801

Designing Embraceable Change

It's not that people resist change whole-scale. They just hate losing control and feeling stupid. When we make critical changes, we risk putting our users in that position. We must take care to ensure that we've considered the process of change as much as we've considered the technology changes themselves. Only then will we end up with changes that our users embrace.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2005). Design>User Interface>Redesign>Usability

21.
#34564

Designing for Faceted Search

Faceted search, or guided navigation, has become the de facto standard for e-commerce and product-related websites, from big box stores to product review sites. But e-commerce sites aren’t the only ones joining the facets club. Other content-heavy sites such as media publishers (e.g. Financial Times: ft.com), libraries (e.g. NCSU Libraries: lib.ncsu.edu/), and even non-profits (e.g. Urban Land Institute: uli.org) are tapping into faceted search to make their often broad-range of content more findable. Essentially, faceted search has become so ubiquitous that users are not only getting used to it, they are coming to expect it.

Lemieux, Stephanie. User Interface Engineering (2009). Articles>Web Design>Information Design>Search

22.
#37050

Designing with the Elements of Play

While earning points or miles has been a staple of loyalty programs for the last 30 years, few outfits make it easy to redeem the points. ThinkGeek not only makes it easy, but also uses the opportunity to highlight some of their lesser-known products.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2010). Articles>Web Design>Usability>User Experience

23.
#14201

Determining How Design Affects Branding

Designers often tell us part of their responsibilities is to enhance the branding of a site, product, or organization. In recent years, we've focused our research on understanding how design can have a positive effect on a brand. In our research, we've learned that brands are an investment instrument. With a savings account, money is deposited so that interest accrues -- the investment grows over time.

User Interface Engineering (2002). Design>Web Design>Branding

24.
#27969

Do Links Need Underlines?

During our recent Virtual Seminar on home page design, several people asked about whether it makes a difference if links are underlined or not. It's a good question and one we get frequently.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2006). Design>Web Design>Usability>Interaction Design

25.
#10571

Docs in the Real World

In two recent consulting projects, we worked with online documentation developers who wanted to understand the problems users encountered and how their documentation helped solve those problems. To find out, we went and observed users in their own work environments. Although the clients and their software differ significantly, we found similar issues.

User Interface Engineering (1998). Articles>Usability>Documentation

 
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