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 More
Search results pages are some of the most visited pages on typical ecommerce sites—to say nothing of a search engine like Google. Many articles appear each year about optimal search algorithms, database performance, and the like. In contrast, very few publications focus on improving the search experience from the customer’s perspective. My new column Search Matters aims to fill this gap by focusing on:
best practices of search user interface (UI) design
design patterns and strategies for improved search user interfaces
common search UI pitfalls
how to use search to provide maximum value to customers and your business
practical search UI matters that have strategic impact on your customers’ Web site experience
UX regression—that is, a step back in the quality or usability of an application or Web site’s user experience—can occur whenever a design diverts from an existing workflow because of a technology or design change. Some refer to this phenomenon as UX backlash. As designers and developers, we subject users to UX regression to some extent every time we embark on making a design change.
User Experience is a moving target. Just ask Google. Design experiments around their Search toolbar over the years have demonstrated both forward progress and regressive patterns in their search experience.
For example, in 2007, Google introduced universal search, integrating search results from a variety of sources such as Web, images, video, news, and maps. A tabbed navigation bar in the upper-left corner of the Google home page and search results pages allowed users to search for, then view results for each of these types of content. This navigation bar remained part of the user interface for about two and a half years. Read More