In usability we trust

UX and all things web

Category: Articles (page 2 of 2)

Where’s me back button?

My Firefox installation got upgraded to 3.0.2 today. And to my surprise the back and forward buttons is gone!

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The use of buttons in web forms

Action buttons exists at the bottom of almost every web form. They’re so common that we often doesn’t even reflect on how to actually design them. By gathering information from a few of the great minds in the field of web usability and also from my own experiences, I’ve tried to come up with a set of best practices on how to design them efficiently.

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Gradual Engagement

I wrote about it in my blogpost Easiest sign up ever one and a half year ago, where I described the sign-up process of Geni, a site about building your own family tree. I didn’t know the name of the concept then, but after reading Luke Wroblewski’s Web Form Design I certainly do. (A review of the book is coming up here soon)

Gradual Engagement is simply the concept of not throwing a big fat sign-up form in the face of the first-time visitor before he has a chance to try out the site. A better approach is to try to get him engaged in what the site is all about before trying to get tons of information from him.

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WebSlices, evolution of RSS?

In the upcoming new version of Internet Explorer 8, which is in public Beta 1 right now, there’s support for a new technique called WebSlices. Is this yet another proprietary feature of Microsoft or is it a really useful evolution of RSS that will be adopted as a web standard? Since it follows the patterns of the Microformat hAtom, which is an unobtrusive way of marking up content with standard HTML, I think that it might actually be a pretty good innovation.

Internet Explorer 8 Beta

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ASP.NET MVC Preview Release 4

Microsoft ASP.NETTo my delight I noticed that during my vacation the ASP.NET MVC Preview Release 4 have been released. This is nice since I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this framework for a project I’m currently working on.

The MVC framework certainly solves a lot of the issues I have with ASP.NET and actually makes it possible to create standard compliant websites without having to bend over backwards with all the awkward quirks of the ASP.NET Web Forms model.

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5 essential books on usability


I’ve compiled a short list of book on usability and UX design that I’ve found both valuable and inspiring. All of these books have given me important insights and helped me to better understand the different aspects of the area.

I’ve listed them in the order I think one should read them and I’ve also written a small text about each.

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I miss X-Ray

I really hope that Stuart Robertsson, the maker of the ingenious Firefox Add-on X-Ray, updates it to work with Firefox 3 soon! I don’t think I’ve realized how much I’ve relied on this add-on in my daily work until now that it doesn’t work anymore.

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No undo? Redo!

Why is it that web apps very often lack something that we take for granted in most window applications, namely the undo function? Is it because it’s not needed? Is it too hard to implement or is it simply just because it’s something that developers don’t think is needed?

The most common solution to prevent user errors is to simply throw an alertbox warning about potential damage or loss of data that the action might cause. Even otherwise awesome web applications often resorts to this behavior. Take for example Backpack from 37 signals, which I regard a very usable and overall great product. When you try to delete a note they throw this alert in your face:

Are you sure you want to delete this note?

This is, from the developers point of view, the easiest way to handle it. It’s almost too easy to implement an alert and many developers habitually do it without giving it a second thought.

A far better solution is to use an undo function. Although harder to implement it maps so much better to the users mental model and behavior patterns. As Alan Cooper puts it in About Face 3:

Users generally don’t believe, or at least don’t want to believe, that they make mistakes. This is another way of saying that the persona’s mental model typically doesn’t include error on his part. Following a persona’s mental model means absolving him of blame. The implementation model, however, is based on an error-free CPU. Following the implementation model means proposing that all culpability must rest with the user. Thus, most software assumes that it is blameless, and any problems are purely the fault of the user.
Alan Cooper, Aboute Face 3

An undo function enables the user to easily recover from mistakes and also encourage him to explore the interface without fear of doing irreversible damage. It transfers the responsibility of handling errors from the user to the system, where it righteously belongs.

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Change your focus to locus

Locus of attention is a term that describes where our attention is focused. In contrary to focus of attention it’s not entirely up to us where we choose to have our attention. If, for example a bang goes of right besides us, our focus involuntarily is placed on that. And that is our Locus of attention. Our focus of attention is alway where we consciously choose to put our attention.

When we are designing user interfaces it’s important to be aware of where the users locus of attention are, so that we are able to show crucial information where the user has his or her attention.

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Confusing Northface contact form

I recently wanted to contact Northface regarding a jacket of mine which zipper has broke. I went to www.northface.com and searched their web site for an email address or something. After some searching I found a button labeled “Email us” and clicked on it expecting my email client to launch, but instead I was transferred to a page with a contact form.

The North Face Contact Form

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Easiest sign up ever

I’ve just discovered a new site called Geni. The site is all about genealogy and building your own family tree. The first thing you do when you enter the site is to start building your own family tree, and naturally you start with yourself. You enter your name and email address and without hardly realizing it you have started you family tree and signed up for the web application at the same time!

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