Monday, August 28, 2006

new Jakob Nielsen book on top usability issues

Here are some chapter headings and subheads from #1 usability specialist Jakob Nielsen's new book Prioritizing Web Usability.

As a fan of Jakob Nielsen, I can pretty much guess what he's going to say about these topics. Do you understand these issues? If not, you can go to Use It, his web site, and learn a ton. Then, for more expertise and applications of the principles, dive into his books.

I'll be speaking of these usability issues more in the coming days.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the complex URL. I have seen very info rich sites use very simple and short URLs, so don't let any programmers tell you it can't be done.

Look at how Jakob Nielsen assigns URLs to his web site pages. As brief as possible. Most would make the URL to his new book page end with ".../prioritizing-web-usability". But he deleted the last two words. Why? To make the URL easier and faster to type.

NOTE: Web usability guidelines are "for most sites, most of the time". They are not rigid, anti-creativity straitjackets that stifle artistic imagination. Usability principles are based, not on arbitrary whim, but case studies of user testing, interface design, and eye-scan research.

Narcissistic designers often argue against usability recommendations, but they tend to want the praise of other designers. They don't seem to care if users can accomplish tasks. Users don't enter the equation.

These pseudo-designers want a portfolio addition that will make other designers think "Wow! Bizarre. You are so talented", rather than "Did this help users find the info they needed? Did this site accomplish the goals of the client?"

Altruistic designers ask: "How do typical users attempt to accomplish web tasks? How can I make a functional and attractive site, where users won't have to learn new skills and non-standard terminology?"


Problems That Haven't Changed

o Links That Don't Change Color When Visited

o Why Designers Don't Believe Us

o Breaking the Back Button

o Fitts' Law of Click Times

o Opening New Browser Windows

o The Curse of Maximization

o How Can You Use Windows if You Don't Understand Windows?

o Pop-Up Windows

o Most Hated Advertising Techniques

o Design Elements That Look Like Advertisements

o Avoid Influencing Users During Testing

o Violating Web-Wide Conventions

o Vaporous Content and Empty Hype

o Dense Content and Unscannable Text

Technological Change:
Its Impact on Usability

o 1986 Air Force Guidelines Stand the Test of Time

o Don Norman's Three Levels of Emotional Design

o Slow Download Time

o Frames

o Flash: The Good, the Bad, and the Usable

o Low-Relevancy Search Listings

o Multimedia and Long Videos

o Teenagers: Masters of Technology?

o Frozen Layouts

o Sad Mac

o Cross-Platform Incompatibility

o Mobile Devices: A New Argument for Cross-Platform Design?

Adaptation: How Users Have
Influenced Usability

o Uncertain Clickability

o Links That Aren't Blue

o Scrolling

o Registration

o Complex URLs

o Pull-Down and Cascading Menus

Restraint: How Designers Have
Alleviated Usability Problems

o Plug-Ins and Bleeding-Edge Technology

o 3D User Interface

o Bloated Design

o Splash Pages

o Moving Graphics and Scrolling Text

o Custom GUI Widgets

o "About Us" Features Don't Say Enough

o Not Disclosing Who's Behind Information

o Made-Up Words

o Outdated Content

o Inconsistency Within a Web Site

o Premature Requests for Personal Information

o Multiple Sites

o Orphan Pages


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