sticky fingers

I was reading Users Decide First; Move Second “In our studies, we observed that once users realized there […]

I was reading Users Decide First; Move Second

“In our studies, we observed that once users realized there was more information available to them, they stopped and re-evaluated the screen. Users seemed disoriented by this disruption in activity and they lost confidence that they were clicking in the right places. The users now questioned a choice that seemed to be a good one earlier.
Some dropdown and fly out implementations required our users to use awkward movements to make simple choices. For example, on a recent version of the Verizon site, the user was looking to find out more about the Verizon Foundation. ”

This is 100% true in my experience– I’ve seen this in enough tests. In fact, often people are so ready to click they click on the header, and then notice the flyout and have to hit back to see what they missed. What UIE doesn’t cover is the ergonomic problems with these GUI objects. Test after test I’ve seen people slip. They slip on long drop downs, they slip on flyouts, and they misclick or their mouse slips off the menu and the whole dang thing folds up under them before they can click. Slipage is common and annoying. And slippage causes resentment toward the site that chose the GUI object and a desire to not use it again. For a news site like MSNBC that wants peopel to come to read it every day, that would be a very bad thing.

from the rough draft of the book:

Principle three: Ergonomic design
When designing in digital spaces, there is an often forgotten fact–humans beings have bodies, and these bodies vary widely. In the real word it’s easier to remember– Herman Miller went to the bank when he tripped over this fact and designed a chair that could be adjusted endlessly: the Aeron.

But tall and short doesn’t mean much on the web– heck, on the web no one knows you are a dog. On the web the body parts engaged are hands, eyes, and ears.

When designing for hands, consider things like scrolling distances and frequency and shortcuts for people with RSI. When Razorfish Germany redesigned the Audi site, they did extensive testing of navigation on the right hand side of the screen with potential website visitors. This was a bit of an innovation: almost all websites have gone to navigation on the top and/or left hand side of the screen. They discovered that not only did the users not mind the change, but it provided easier access to the scrollbar for faster navigation, and made it easier to concentrate on the content.

When designing for eyes, consider blindness, color blindness, and near/far sightedness. When designing for ears, remember not only deafness, but also people who may be listening public spaces. Who hasn’t been in a quiet office when suddenly loud midi music floods the room from a nearby cubicle?

The body, and the world the body inhabits, matters even in the digital realm.


Add Yours
  1. 1
    Bruce Cole

    Very interesting, regarding placing links on the right side next to the scroll bar. I have a long list of links on my site – on the right side – but I didn’t design it that way specifcally to be next to the scroll bar. Guess it’s good that I did…but have been contemplating condensing the links into a collapsable menu. Not sure whether it would confuse users or not…

  2. 2

    Nice! Bit of feedback: Posting the excerpt from the book works pretty well as a teaser for me. It makes me want the book more. When Christina, when can we have it?

  3. 3

    October, if I don’t crap out.

    I just want to say that writing this slim book is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I now understand what douglas admas meant when he said “writing is staring at a blank piece of peper until your forehead bleeds” Perhaps it’s easy for others– i had thought it would be easy for me since I blog off at the mouth, but thoughtful concise useful writing is hard labor. I really hope I can pull this off.

  4. 4

    Perhaps continuing to give us sneak peeks of your book will help your writing process…and reduce your blood loss. (I also recommend Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.)

    Looking forward to more sneak peeks.

  5. 5

    On more than one project I have implemented the DHTML menus that flyout from the left navigation buttons (also built so the initial button could be clicked for those non-JavaScript users and those with vision problems). The last time these were implemented I did a set of user testing. The users (mostly below the median Internet users) did not have a problem using or finding information, as they explored the flyout menus to see what was available before clicking. The users picked up an understanding of the site structure easily.

    However, there was a big downside to using these menus, in that the users jumped deep into the site. The second layer of pages, the ones the initial buttons click to, provide contextual information about what can be found in that section and pointers on how to find what one is seeking. The heirachial menus were like teaching someone to ride a motorcycle, as you explain how to let the clutch out and accelerate then shift, they do this and are out of yelling range before they learn how to brake (you often find them in the bushes at the first corner). The heir menus work if the information in the site is self sufficient, but sites or information applications, in which there is a pyramid of instruction, do not seem like candidates for flyout menus.

    Are dynamic menus bad? It all depends.

    The rest of the information I strongly agree with. One can wear out their index finger (or which ever finger is used) moving from side to side using laptop control pads when trying to move from lefthand navigation (which seems to work in Latinate cultures as the links are near the start of the reading and as the eye returns from the end of the line there are options to move on, should the information not enthrall you) to righthand scroll bars.

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