10 Tips on Usability

This week’s class discussion reminded me of a usability article I recently came across on Smashing Magazine. Dmitry Fadeyev, founder of the Usability Post blog, provides 10 helpful insights:

  • Form labels work best above the fold
  • Users focus on faces
  • Quality of design is an indicator of credibility
  • Most users don’t scroll
  • Blue is the best color for links
  • The ideal search box is 27 characters wide
  • White space improves comprehension
  • Effective user testing doesn’t have to be extensive
  • Informative product pages help you stand out
  • Most users are blind to advertising

The point on effective user testing is especially fascinating to me. It was originally addressed in a newsletter article by usability expert Jakob Nielsen, who believes elaborate usability tests are unnecessary. According to Nielsen, a successful usability test can be conducted with only five users.  After the fifth user, you’re observing the same findings repeatedly, and are likely wasting time and money.

If additional resources are available, Nielsen suggests a multi-phased approach with five users per test cycle. He cautions that one exception to the “rule of five” is when you’re dealing with several highly distinct groups of users, such as children and parents. In this scenario, it would be wise to expand the sample group.

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