How we really see the web

We don’t read everything on the web. We scan, but we don’t scan everything. We zap from left to right in a ridiculous pace, searching for something that grabs our attention. We don’t really look at photo’s in news articles, unless they are big enough. The same for ads goes as well, size matters and we look longer, a lot longer, if it’s a text ad close to the main content of the page.

We have a way with bold intro paragraphs: we actually read them! Paragraphs’ best size is around 45-50 words, much longer will result in less attention. We also don’t read all the headlines and intros but spread our attention what results in a heatmaps of attention.

Eyetrack2004 is a loosely held investigation of what people watch when they visit newssites. Some of thse issues already surfaced in usability studies, but there are some pretty interesting findings in their public report. Which is also available as a 340 page downloadable pdf. One thing is clear: there definately needs to be more study by independent institutions of the way the user interacts with a website.

What we’ll find may very wel not please designers, and the final result may not be as pretty as it could be, but we’ll be sure that it will work.


Everybody who comes from a Windows or Mac background – most of you- and who has ever played around with Linux has witnessed it: Poor usability. I consider myself quite computerfahig, but Linux is on the edge of my possibilities. I do n�t want to read a huge manual on my OS. I d�n’t want to work on the commandline. And I want to be able to install and get it running myself. It should work, it should be easy as hell and once configured it should work.

Frans Englich wrote an article that exactly points out the weak spot of the open source community: Too arrogant-nerdy to realize that usability is not an extra trick in a programmers toolbox but a full-grown science that has a lot more to do with psychology than with programming.

Englich pleads for reflection by the programmers, he thinks that if those people -yes, the 1000 and one different programmers from all over the globe- think just a little bit longer about labeling, that will solve the problems. Wrong ofcourse, since those programmers very well may allready be doing what he suggests.

Very useful to read the comments as well, it shows the sometimes very hostile attitude of OSS developers towards the ‘outside world’. An eyeopener and proof that lots of programmers should read more usability and IA books instead of the latest PHP- or MySql Bible.
It would give them so much more depth in their work that I think the REAL progress towards usability and more intuitive and advanced software development is still to be made. If only they would read about it…

Extra: a comic about this subject

Search engine updates

A search enginge war is coming. This year, promising better and personalized results, but:

…Brand highlights the fact that while this second search arms race promises to offer better search results, the technologies are designed give search engines a better story to tell to advertisers

Get a good update: Google killers

Extragratis: Niche search engines

And well well well… a new engine, a dutch engine. Izito with a dramatic layout. The results are in flash. Yeah, flash. They say: “Izito is a smart searchengine with a rich user interface that makes searching easier.” And opening links in a new tab impossible while at the same time distorting the expected back-button behaviour.

This engine might deliver very good results – actually my first impression is quite positive-, but I’m afraid that with the current user interface a lot of people will never find out. I have two words of advice for the creators: “Usability Testing”

Talking the blue underlined link talk. Again.

Do we make links blue and underlined? What do we do with the visited links. And do we have to take Jacob Nielsen litterally?

Of course we do not. Nielsen already quit claiming blue underlined links as the only right way some time ago, but some of the designers Cameron Moll has asked about their views still act as if Nielsen wishes to limit their artistic freedom.

A lot of familiar arguments, and some subtle remarks as well. Interesting though nothing revolutionary.
CollyLogic: Question Time: Visited Links

Integrating parts of user experience

Peter Morville – co-author of the ‘Polar Bear book’ Information Architecture for the WWW- has broadened his vision and has also come to the conclusion that not a single part of the user experience can be seen seperate from the others, but he views it from the user point of view.

He calls it the honeycomb in which the Useful, Usable, Desirable, Findable, Accessible, Credible together lead to something Valuable.

It is this kind of meta-vision that professionals in the field of user experience need and that make our work a bit more understandable towards customers and co-workers in the business.

For me it was as revealing as was reading The Elements of User Experience. It is the Diagram that integrated the seperate pieces of our profession into one, and it is this beehive diagram that takes it all into the subjective realm of what the user experiences. Very useful and interesting!

Dealing with Stakeholders

Usability experts sometimes tend to put the user a bit too central, thereby running the risk of irritating stakeholders – people who’se support they are going to need to finish the project successful. Boxes and Arrows focuses on this issues, and explains the need for stakeholder support for the usability professional. Boxes and Arrows: Understanding Organizational Stakeholders for Design Success

(Via Langemarks Cafe)