As we wish a Happy 60th Birthday to The Official UK Top 40 Singles Chart this week, Libby counts down The Unofficial HP Top 10 CRO / UX Tips Chart. This post will be more effective when accompanied by this jingle!
“And in at No.10…”
10. Tell your user how you want them to see
Our brain processes millions of bits of sensory information every second. In order to cope, it identifies patterns and creates short cuts based on prior knowledge, which means we interpret what we’re experiencing within milliseconds. If your homepage uses established visual cues to communicate the meaning of the page, users will engage more quickly and with less effort. For example, arranging text and images in close proximity implies the two are related whereas putting space between the two can help imply separate topics on the same page.
9. Help your users read
For a long time (since the late 1800s) it has been assumed that uppercase letters are more difficult to read than lowercase… However, this isn’t actually the case. A study by Keith Rayner in 1998 (which, ironically, is also ages ago) revealed we read by recognising and anticipating letters before recognising and then reading a word. While it’s evident that some fonts are easier to read than others - and it’s no surprise that larger text is often easier to read - as users find reading a computer screen more difficult than reading a page – it’s worth choosing a font with a large x-size so smaller fonts actually appear larger, therefore reducing eye strain. Again, the University of Essex website is a good example of this:
8. Forgetting leads to frustration
Our short-term memory has a limited capacity. Remember being the newbie at work and trying to get everyone’s tea/coffee requests right on your first day? “… two teas, both with milk, one with sugar, four coffees, all with milk, one with two sugars… oh and one hot water so Kerry can have her herbal tea… herbal tea?.. Hmm… I wonder what that’s like?.. Wait, how many sugars in that tea?” Before you know it, sensory input’s ruined your rehearsing of the crucial tea/coffee info and all your new colleagues think you’re incapable of a simple hot-drink-run. Do your users a favour and don’t ask them to remember information from one page to another. Give them the ability to compare the specifications of multiple products - especially ones with a lot of specifications - John Lewis earn top marks for their efforts!
Selecting similar products for comparison takes you to a clearly laid out page to easily evaluate which product fits your requirements without having to open up multiple tabs to compare. Clear, simple, effective:
7. Think about what users are thinking about
Going back to the idea that our brains receive a lot of information at once, some pieces, inevitably, are not going to make it through. Bombarding a user with too much information all at once means that stuff is going to get missed. In her book “100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People”, Susan M. Weinschenk refers to Keller‘s idea of “progressive disclosure”, suggesting that information is best served in stages and that further information should only be introduced when the first lot has been processed. Most ecommerce sites itemise their product, but clicking on them gives you more information. HOWEVER: this only works if you know what information users are going to need and when they’re going to need it. This takes knowledge, research and yes, USER TESTING.
6. Beware the multitasking myth
Ever tried reading the paper in a bustling coffee shop? Or listening to the service announcements at the train station during rush hour? How about trying to finish a blog post knowing Jimmy Page is on Jools Holland right now? It can be pretty difficult to filter out the distractions. And even if we do manage to focus, our unconscious is constantly working and looking out for other messages about danger, food or music legends. Multitasking is incredibly rare (how about bumping into someone on the street while talking on your mobile?) and in reality we switch quickly back and forth between tasks, shifting our attention. If a user is browsing your website and not really focussing on any one goal, you can grab their attention with a big, bright “20% off all Led Zepplin t-shirts” ad. Alternatively, as CathKidston.co.uk show with their checkout process, you can help users concentrate when filling in their billing details by completely removing these kinds of distractions - although I would make the Account Details form simpler - with less fields - as this may be a checkout anxiety for some users. Of course, this would need to be tested against the control.
Our Unofficial HP Top 10 CRO / UX Tips Chart Countdown continues after these messages (In other words, next week)