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January 2006 Issue

By Matteo Penzo

Published: January 23, 2006

“The usability of forms is often massively important to the overall usability of a Web site.”

In this article, I’ll present findings from eyetracking tests we did to evaluate the best solutions for label placement in Web forms. Today, forms are the primary—often the only—way users have of sending data to Web sites. Web 2.0 makes extensive use of forms. For example, on Flickr™, Del.icio.us, and Writeboard™—which, by the way, I used when writing this article—users provide all of their tags, comments, and other information using forms. Users submit queries to search engines using forms. Ecommerce sites also rely heavily on forms that let visitors find and purchase products. (I’ve never browsed for books on Amazon®. I always search for them.)

So, the usability of forms is often massively important to the overall usability of a Web site. That’s why we decided to subject some of these forms to a quick round of eyetracking tests and have analyzed the resulting data to better understand what makes Web forms usable—or unusable.

We conducted these evaluations in the Consultechnology eyetracking lab. Magda Giacintucci assisted me in conducting the tests and setting up the lab. Three different groups of users participated in the tests. We classified the users by their level of expertise using the Internet—rookie, intermediate, and pro. In the pro group, I included people from my team—from both the programming and user experience groups. I’d like to stress the fact that it was our aim to do these tests quickly and simply, in order to gain practical knowledge that would help us improve the design of forms rather than to do scientific analysis for an academic paper. Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: January 23, 2006

“In additive color synthesis, all hues of the visible spectrum of light are mixtures of various proportions of one, two, or three of the primary colors of light.”

This article is Part I of a quick reference on color theory for digital displays. It is the first in a series of articles about the use of color in application program user interfaces and on Web sites.

Primary Colors of Additive Color Synthesis

Computer monitors display information using the RGB (Red-Green-Blue) color model. An RGB monitor synthesizes colors additively by selectively illuminating each of its pixel’s red, green, and blue phosphor dots at varying levels of intensity. The light from a pixel’s three phosphor dots blends together to synthesize a single color. In additive color synthesis, all hues of the visible spectrum of light are mixtures of various proportions of one, two, or three of the primary colors of light. Read moreRead More>

By Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: January 23, 2006

“Unintentional effects caused by the interaction of contrasting colors can be visually distracting and can even diminish the readability of the text in a user interface or on a Web page.”

This article is Part II of a quick reference on color theory for digital displays. It is the second in a series of articles about the use of color in application program user interfaces and on Web sites.

Contrast Effects

Our perception of hues, values, and chroma levels depends upon their interaction with adjacent hues, values, and chromas, which can result in color-contrast, value-contrast, and chroma-contrast effects, respectively.

While you can achieve good design by using any color-contrast, value-contrast, or chroma-contrast effect, unintentional effects caused by the interaction of contrasting colors can be visually distracting and can even diminish the readability of the text in a user interface or on a Web page. Read moreRead More>

By John Ferrara, Pabini Gabriel-Petit, and Louis Rosenfeld

Published: January 9, 2006

“The goal of the UXnet Local Ambassadors Initiative is to foster the growth of UX communities around the world and facilitate networking among them.”

Over the past few decades, we have seen a steady expansion in the number of people who design or evaluate the quality of the user experience of digital products. The popularization of the personal computer in business and at home, the explosion of the Web and Internet applications, and the sudden presence of computer interfaces in everything from medical systems to voting stations to home entertainment centers has greatly accelerated the growth of the user experience (UX) movement.

The swelling ranks among professionals, academics, and students in user experience provide the potential for a large and diverse global community. However, collaboration among these various constituencies within user experience is neither as widespread nor as easy as it should be. Professional associations, their local chapters, and ad hoc local groups have done much to bring these people together, but the specter of competition among these associations and groups threatens the emergence of a true UX community. Read moreRead More>

By Leo Frishberg

Published: January 9, 2006

“Though the process of designing and creating application and information space user experiences for the Web is virtually the same—even if the deliverable design documents may differ—their user experiences are fundamentally and profoundly different.”

The relatively recent adoption of user-focused design practices by the Web design and development community—including personas, participatory design, paper prototyping, and the like—highlights important distinctions between the user experiences of desktop applications and those of information spaces. With the growing desire for usable Web applications, these distinctions become more topical and important to understand. Though the process of designing and creating application and information space user experiences for the Web is virtually the same—even if the deliverable design documents may differ—their user experiences are fundamentally and profoundly different. For designers, business analysts, marketing consultants, and others who are sincerely interested in delivering the best user experiences online, understanding these distinctions can reduce the cost of design and improve the likelihood of user acceptance.

I am intrigued by how a designer’s background affects problem definition and, thus, the resulting design approach and its implications for the design and development of these new forms of user experience. Developers of desktop applications and Web sites have very different orientations to user experience. As application developers move into Web development and Web developers begin to take on the peculiarities of application design, each needs to recognize the wildly variant aesthetics of the other. Read moreRead More>