The organization of information within websites is vital to its overall usefulness. In fact, a study by Morkes and Nielsen (1997)found that their experimental website scored higher in usability when text was
than web pages in their control condition. That is, viewers tend to move quickly from page to page. Instead they usually scan for information that is of direct interest to them. Accordingly, it is suggested that text should be:
Users have grown accustomed to looking in certain areas on a screen to find specific items (Bernard, 2001). Analyzing users' expectations of where they expect specific web objects to be located revealed that generally,
In follow-up study (Bernard, 2002) that analyzed participants who bought at least one item online revealed that:
The figure below shows the combined location expectations for the ten web objects.
The actual usable size to avoid any scrolling at this resolution is 595 x 295 pixels (the safe width for printing at this resolution is 535 pixels). Most users however have their resolution set at 800 x 600 (31%). To avoid scrolling here, the usable size is 750 x 425 pixels. A compromise would be to place the most important information within areas that are visible at lower resolution settings, while placing less important information in areas visible at higher resolution settings.
In addition, when users do scroll, they may not see the information because it is placed in a typically low information-priority area, such as the bottom of a page (Nielsen, 1999) or placed in an area where users typically would not expect it to be placed.
Fluid layouts are significantly preferred to both centered and left-justified layouts. In a study by Bernard and Larsen (2001) participants indicated they perceived the fluid layout (which the margins are not fixed at any particular width) as being the best suited for reading and finding information, as well as having a layout that is most appropriate for the screen size (for both small and large screens). They also indicated that the fluid layout looked the most professional, and consequently preferred it to other layout conditions. Conversely, the consistently least preferred condition was the left-justified layout. A possible reason for the lack of preference for this layout is that users had to horizontally scroll in order to see all the information on the page. As discussed above, users particularly dislike to horizontally scroll.
Links with summaries are perceived as the most usable and are preferred to links without summaries. A study by Baker, Bernard, and Riley (2002) found no statistical differences in search time across conditions with links with summary, links only, and full text. However, the summary condition was perceived as being the easiest in finding information, being visually pleasing, promoting comprehension, participants' satisfaction with the site, and looking professional. The summary condition was the most preferred, while the full text condition was the least preferred. The full text condition was perceived as being most difficult to find information, not promoting comprehension, not being visually pleasing, and not being satisfying.
Participants reported that they preferred the summary condition over the Links only condition because the brief summaries accompanying the links often guided them to the information they were searching for. Participants commented that, in the links only condition, they sometimes felt as if they were "jumping blindly" into the article. Several participants also reported that they did not like having to scroll through all of the articles in the full text condition. This study suggests that providing a small amount of information about an article on a page is superior to having long, scrolling pages filled with articles.
In presenting a list of links, we found that it is best if they are bulleted. For instance, as discussed in Usability News, Spain compared the accuracy rates for three link conditions: bulleted links, space between the links, and a no bullet/no space condition. It was found that the accuracy rate was
All participants preferred either the bullets or spaces; no one preferred the no space condition (Spain, 1999). In support of this, Parkinson, Sisson, and Snowberry (1985) found that menus with spacing were searched 25% faster than menus without spacing.
Usability Research Lab
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