Measurement and research

Nielsen drops page view ranking

From USA Today, Nielsen drops page view rankings in favor of weighing time on site as more important.

Article specifically cites online video and Ajax as reasons why page views are meaningless.

Time on site is also skewed. Measuring content views would be a more precise measurement of user engagement. (You can track content views for both video and ajax.)

(Link via Mr. Eddie James)

Christopher Fahey writes an interesting series on the “Smoke & Mirrors” of user research.

As designers look towards user research for the objective truth, Christopher questions the motives behind the research. He follows with a series of articles, the first of which discuss user research as a pseudo science pointing to absolutes that do not exist. He continues the discussion stating that tools such as eye tracking provide results that are already apparent to good UI designers. His latest article explains that a value of user research is often to cut through the politics and convince stakeholders to make good design decisions. His upcoming article: “Research as Bullshit”

Costs of Badly Done Customer Research?

In light of growing acceptance of user or customer research, it's worth considering the costs of poorly done research. For retailers, it seems especially important to make sure every contact with customers reinforces the values associated with a brand.

I just had a negative experience with customer research, that impacted my perception of the retailer and the associated brand. I spent some time thinking about it from my own viewpoint as a customer, and it seemed the most important cost to the retailer is in terms of closing a channel for business. In this case, the botched online survey I walked through makes me unwilling to engage with them on the web again.

I posted a quick writeup, with screenshots of the survey, here.

I know there's material on these costs from marketing perspectives, but I'm wondering if anyone's working on this from the point of view of IA and UX, when they're focused on better connecting the business with its customers and user?

Tracking user navigation methods by logging where users click on web pages

I wrote about some research we're doing in my organization to observe user interaction with navigation by tracking where users click on the page (body, local navigation, breadcrumbs, global navigation). Our observations aren't dissimilar to what Michael Bernard observes in usability testing -- links to content are most often searched for/clicked in the body of pages. Navigating our site (a digital library) consists mainly of browsing through a directory (a-z lists are available as are a poly-hierarchical directory listing), so what we were mainly interested in was how people made use of the links in the local navigation. I'd be interested in seeing if other people have done this and what they were looking for. I find, as an in-house site developer, that being responsible for a site for a long term (as opposed to just launching one and going on to a new project) gives one good opportunity to observe and assess the site for usability. Your can assess patterns of use over long periods of time. You can make contact with users and keep the lines of feedback open with them over time. Clearly there is something unique about being involved in the evolution of a singular site, which I am only beginning to appreciate.

How people use the Internet Daily

A colleague pointed me to the statistics kept by Pew Internet & American Life on the typical daily activities of Internet users. The data are compiled from market research they publish related to their mission of providing research on the Internet's growth and societal impact. The organization funds original, academic-quality research that explores the impact of the Internet on children, families, communities, the work place, schools, health care and civic/political life.

How Do People Evaluate a Web Site's Credibilibility?

On the AIfIA Members list, Christina pointed to this report by Consumer WebWatch that presents the results of a study on Web site credibility. The report finds that information structure is the second most important aspect of a site for determining credibility following design.

Studying information seeking and use

I have been dealing lately with user research based on interviews and product usage data. Some needs related to this work have been bouncing around in my head. What's fascinating to me is that related new literature has recently come across my desk and I've also participated in some conversations recently that have definitely informed how I am considering fulfilling these needs. That any of these seemingly separate things (literature, discourse, my work) should be related is amazing to me.

Here are four related recent articles and discourses that seem to me to have the theme of comparing pre-determined information structure with information usage-based mapping/cognition.

Human universals

saw Steven PInker talk last night, where he mentioned Donald Brown's work on 'Human Universals'. Which led me to MITECS, The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences. Which I think might be useful, somehow... just haven't figured out how yet.

New Adaptive Path articles

Adaptive Path is cornerning the market on IA articles and mind share lately. Superstars write a lot.

Progress Paralysis: Eight steps to get your Web site moving again by Peter Merholz in New Architect.

The Culture of Usability: How to spend less and get more from your usability-testing program by Janice Fraser in New Architect.

Site Navigation: A Few Helpful Definitions by Indi Young in Adaptive Path Publications.

What people say, what people do, and what people say they do...

There's an interesting excerpt from a 1977 article called “Telling More Than We Know” talking about the original study that showed that what people say is not necessarily what they do. In this case, test subjects were given a problem to solve and denied getting the solution from a clue they were given, even giving credit to a useless clue while neglecting to mention the genuinely helpful one.

There's also original data from a 1977 study involving word pairs and brand recognition. I'm not good enough to sum it up here, and it's a pretty short description they've got, so you might as well just read it.

Just two more reminders that, in the words of Margaret Meade: “What people say, what people do, and what people say they do are entirely different things.”

Ten Best Intranets of 2002

Jakob's article promotes their annual Intranet report, which is perhaps most interesting to people who want to benchmark their intranet against some best of class intranets out there. There appear to be some good general observations about how corporations approach intranet re-designs and buy in.

UPA Voice. Volume 4 Issue 3 (Sept 2002)

New issue of the UPA newsletter is out with these articles.

  • Common Principles: A Usable Interface Design Primer. By Rick Oppedisano
  • Using Usability Testing to Determine "Related Links" in An Online Brokerage Web Site. By Ioannis Vasmatzidis, Eliot Jablonka, and Hsin Eu
  • New Friends of Usability Certificates Promote Usability by Saying "Thank You": A new UPA Outreach program you can use By Whitney Quesenbery
STC Usability SIG, Usability toolkit

The STC Usability SIG offers a collection of documents including forms, checklists, templates for conducting usability testing and user interviews.

Accessibility Arguments Revisited

New on Frontend Usability Infocentre.

    Regular Infocentre readers will know that Frontend has been arguing for the need for greater accessibility on the web for some time. Frontend have recently completed the delivery of the first version (1.1) of the Irish National Disability Authority (NDA) IT Accessibility Guidelines. In the course of our work for the NDA over the last year we've talked to a wide variety groups and individuals who have an interest in accessibility and as a result of their input, our approach has shifted a little. Here's what we found out.
Can log files help fix your IA?

The issue of using log files to assess the success of the information architecture and usability of a web site came up on a mailing list recently, and two great white papers were uncovered:

Know of any others?

SURL Usability News, July 2002

From Wichita (Kansas, USA) State University comes the newest edition of Usability News, a publication of the Software Usability Research Laboratory.

There are a number of good articles (here's the list of all of them), but the two most IA-related are:

Also, buried in their easy-print version is a link to Optimal Web Design, which is FAQ of sorts, listing the questions most commonly asked about designing usable websites along with answers that draw on their body of research. It's like a power shake made with a dash of Jakob, a pinch of the Yale Style Guide, and several heaping scoops of SURL research and common knowledge, useful for short but thorough answers to major questions.

External Search Engine Usability

So it's good to know people are hitting your site with A, B and C keywords from certain search engines... but how good is that information... what is the user really looking for? Jeff Lash explains the Three Ways to Improve External Search Engine Usability.

There are three methods that can be used in improving how links to your site appears on external search engines, and how relevant and useful the resulting pages those links point to are:

  • Recreating search logs
  • Cognitive walkthrough
  • Usability testing
Forrester Report: When Can Web Analytics Drive Design?

Forrester has an interesting "Brief" on tools to help drive the design of websites. Membership may be required.

"Complex site redesigns require input from multiple sources. But for focused design changes, data gathered from analytics tools may be enough to make a reliable call. "

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