Banner Blindness

Jakob Nielsen shares results of new eyetracking studies which confirm –"for the umpteenth time"– that banner blindness is real:

"Users almost never look at anything that looks like an advertisement, whether or not it’s actually an ad. On hundreds of pages, users didn’t fixate on ads. Scanning is more common than reading, but users will sometimes dig into an article if they really care about it."

Jakob Nielsen’s Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design

From usability expert Jakob Nielsen’s useit.com. I’ll plead guilty to #2 and #5 on a few of our sites. I’m iffy on a couple more. If you have a blog (or any kind of website), this is a handy check-list.

1. Bad Search
2. PDF Files for Online Reading
3. Not Changing the Color of Visited Links
4. Non-Scannable Text
5. Fixed Font Size
6. Page Titles With Low Search Engine Visibility
7. Anything That Looks Like an Advertisement
8. Violating Design Conventions
9. Opening New Browser Windows
10. Not Answering Users’ Questions

Movie computers

Computer usability expert Jakob Nielsen has compiled a top 10 list of the most egregious mistakes made by moviemakers. My favorites are:

The Hero Can Immediately Use Any UI
Break into a company — possibly in a foreign country or on an alien planet — and step up to the computer. How long does it take you to figure out the UI and use the new applications for the first time? Less than a minute if you’re a movie star.

Integration is Easy, Data Interoperates
In the show 24, Jack Bauer calls his office to get plans and schematics for various buildings. Once these files have been transferred from outside sources to the agency’s mainframe, Jack asks to have them downloaded to his PDA. And — miracle of miracles — the files are readable without any workarounds.

Remote Manipulators
In Tomorrow Never Dies, James Bond drives his BMW from the back seat with an Ericsson mobile phone that works as the car’s remote control. And 007 drives fast, while also evading bad guys.

You’ve Got Mail is Always Good News
In the movies, checking your mail is a matter of picking out the one or two messages that are important to the plot. No information pollution or swamp of spam.

“This is Unix, It’s Easy”
In the film Jurassic Park, a 12-year-old girl has to use the park’s security system to keep everyone from being eaten by dinosaurs. She walks up to the control terminal and utters the immortal words, “This is a Unix system. I know this.” And proceeds to (temporarily) save the day.

The Case Against Caps

ALL-CAP TEXT REDUCES READING SPEED BY ABOUT TEN PERCENT. MIXED-CASE LETTERS HAVE VARIATIONS THAT BREAK UP THE TEXT INTO RECOGNIZABLE SHAPES, WHEREAS A PARAGRAPH IN ALL CAPS HAS UNIFORM HEIGHT AND SHAPE, MAKE IT APPEAR BLOCKY AND RUN TOGETHER. ALSO, THE USE OF ALL CAPS CAN SEEM CHILDISH AND AMATEUR, OR AGGRESSIVE OR UNPROFESSIONAL. RESERVE ALL-CAP TEXT FOR SHORT HEADINGS AND TITLES, AND FOR SHOUTING.

Prioritizing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen, Hoa Loranger.

Web surfers see only what they want

Certainly no surprise to anyone that designs or (in my case) maintains websites. A few specifics from recent study by Jakob Nielsen’s Nielsen Norman Group:

  • Individuals read Web pages in an “F” pattern. They’re more inclined to read longer sentences at the top of a page and less and less as they scroll down. That makes the first two words of a sentence very important.
  • Surfers connect well with images of people looking directly at them. It helps if the person in the photo is attractive, but not too good-looking. Photos of people who are clearly professional models are a turnoff.
  • People respond to pictures that provide useful information, not just decoration.

And my favorite: When there is less on a page, users read more. They point to JetBlue Airways as an example of one of the sites to get it right.

Weblog Usability: Top 10 Mistakes

Online usability expert Jakob Nielsen gives us The Top Ten Design Mistakes for Weblog Usability in this weeks Alertbox:

1. No Author Biographies
2. No Author Photo
3. Nondescript Posting Titles
4. Links Don’t Say Where They Go
5. Classic Hits are Buried
6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation
7. Irregular Publishing Frequency
8. Mixing Topics
9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss
10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service

I sometimes get a little too cute with my post titles (#3) and I struggle to keep my focus narrow (#8) but, all in all, I’m giving smays.com high marks. He explains each of these and I urge my blogging friends to take 5 minutes to read and heed what Uncle Jakob has to say.

A more balanced, decentralized lifestyle

“The Internet will reestablish a more balanced, decentralized lifestyle. In the physical world, you win by being big, with economies of scale in manufacturing, worldwide distribution, and branding. In the virtual world, you win by being good: Automation reduces the benefits of scale, the Internet equalizes distribution, and reputation follows from quality rather than incessantly repeated slogans. The switch from centralization to decentralization goes to the heart of the human experience. And because the switch will drive up quality, it will tend to be a force for good.” [Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, November 22, 2004]

I no longer believe in politicians, large institutions, and organized religion…just to name a few. One thing (?) in which I believe strongly is the Internet and it’s potential for improving (saving?) mankind. I can’t make an intelligent case for that belief but Jakob Nielsen makes a good running start at it.

Why Mobile Phones are Annoying

Bystanders rated mobile-phone conversations as dramatically more noticeable, intrusive, and annoying than conversations conducted face-to-face. While volume was an issue, hearing only half a discussion also seemed to up the irritation factor. [Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, April 12, 2004]

Jakob Nielsen on Clutter

“Saying less often communicates more. Our lives are littered with extraneous details that smother salient information. Each little piece of useless chatter is relatively innocent, and only robs us of a few seconds. The cumulative effect, however, is much worse: we assume that most communication is equally useless and tune it out, thus missing important information that’s sometimes embedded in the mess.” Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, August 11, 2003