Guest Post: Bran, Tom Bran, from the Tech Team talking Usability

1] Collection of ‘little details making a big impact on UX:

2] Collection of e-books and articles about UX/Usability:

3] Great blog, that one:

4] …and one for luck, another good blog; short sharp articles:

Thank you Mr Bran for your high quality, thought provoking links!

It’s sunny, it’s 4pm (ish), it’s nearly the weekend!
Go home and tinker with your car – if you have one – don’t you know it’s exciting times, being in the car!
If  you’re feeling the dipping that is the double then why not get your loved one to roll up their sleeves and build your own!
…or just borrow a 106 from your relatives, get all boy racer on it and get it on a soapJ


Understanding scrolling behaviour & the fold

Useful for explaining the concept of the fold to clients…
The industry has been too-ing and fro-ing over the end of the screen aka the fold.
There were arguments for keeping all content above the common dominator fold based on the perception that users were lazy and didn’t scroll. However, as the years have gone on, our understanding of user behaviour, user attention, design, and channels has developed.

The general consensus currently is that:
Users do scroll and will scroll should the content above the fold get their attention.

This doesn’t mean that all content needs to be squeezed on above a line on their screen. Rather it means that the first item of content/piece of functionality needs to be attention grabbing and relevant.

This site does a brilliant job of explaining why:

And this site does the job of backing up why attention grabbing above the fold is important:

Don’t skim read and assume form the title that what the study is saying is that all content should be above a fold; rather it is compounding the argument that the content above the fold should be relevant and follow the marketing principles of AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) as users follow the page down.

Other reasons that help understand the function and principle of the fold are as follows:
1] Different people use different screen sizes
2] Users have learnt to scroll
3] The fold is less important because more people are using a common screen size
4] The most important content goes at the top anyway. That’s common sense
5] Scroll bars are fine if you make it clear that there is something there
6] Tool bars take up space so a screen size is not reflective of its actual display area
7] It may be better to have a sensible scrolling page than to have the users click on many pages
8] Horizontal scrolls are also increasingly in use
9] We’re already making assumptions about users and what screen they are viewing on – what about viewing sites on mobiles
10] Visual hierarchy is what matters
11] Html 5 can do amazing things using the concept of scrolling e.g. and brands are embracing this 

Other useful links – circa 1997 which shows how old the argument is – are:
Blasting the myth of the fold
Unfolding the fold
Web conventions we could do away with

When is copy not just copy?

When it affects the interactional affordance of the element; what a user thinks the element does, what the user uses it to do & what the user expects it to do.

Changing copy on interactive elements affects navigation, the intricacies of the interaction & the user journey. This in turn affects learning, mind mapping & system understanding & orientation which in turn affects the total experience that the uses leaves with.

It ain’t just words you change when you change copy on interactive elements, it’s action.

Smashing Mag highlights: Alcohol, navigation & 16 hours of UX video

That’s right. A new year, a new IA digest series! For the 1st one of 2010, I have decided to start off on a good foot and plagiarise Smashing magazine…

1] The Unusable and Superficial World of Beer and Alcohol Websites
“I’ve concluded — due to problems related to typography, accessibility, and usability — that the apparent “beauty” present on many of the websites related to this industry is merely “skin deep”. To put it quite bluntly, the  people responsible for decision-making in the beer and alcohol website industry should be ashamed of themselves for creating such horrendous user experiences.”
Louis Lazaris wants a fight innit. Have a go if you think you’re ‘ard ‘nuff

2] And then Louis went and wrote this: The Case Against Vertical Navigation
He made the claim in his beer and alcohol article that using left-hand vertical navigation is an out-of-date method in modern web design and people wondered why he said this. He presents 5 reasons why he prefers horizontal navigation as opposed to vertical. In the end, as always, it depends on the project but he has some interesting points.

3] Finally a link not by the infamous Louis, 25 User Experience Videos That Are Worth Your Time
Does what it says on the tin, collated for your 16 hours of viewing pleasure by the very thoughtful and somewhat unhappy looking Janko Jovanovic

Have a lovely week, stay snot-free!:)

Simply simple: One pagers, Human warming & always a good one

1] Orange did one – half of the agencies thought it was simply too obvious and the other half thought it was obvious and simply genius.
Here are 40 inspiring single page sitesFill yer bootsJ

2] Lets hope you get a non-smelly, non-sweaty one…
Instead of hot water bottles (of which I am a big fan), Holiday Inn would rather get their employees who wear special warming suits to climb into your bed, warm it up and get out whilst you get in. Not sure whether this is going to do wonders for the hotel chain or set them up as being really weird and creepy….the fella in the pic looks happy enough…
The Holiday Inn is piloting human bed warmers in its Kensington branch if you’re a bit of a punterJ

3] And finally, its proper old and most of you saw this but for those few – even if its just 2 – that didn’t – this made me cry –  again –  over the weekend.
A man tries to settle his overdue account with a drawing of a spider

Deadly serious: Steampunk Marmite, Horizontal nav and naked Zappos

1] Love it or hate it….
Yup. Marmite. They’ve creatively turned to their Victoriana past and asking their fans to join a Marmarati – the Marmite Society – to get taste previews of a harder hitting flavour due to be launched next year – all the fans have to do is agree to submit content. They’ve also gone cross channel and opened pop ups throughout London in conjunction with the Royal College of Arts students to enforce the FreeMasons-esq Yeast Extract club.

2] Go horizontal….
Moving up and down a page using a mouse has always considered to be easier simply due to the reach of the human hand. But consider lap tops where they may be balanced on your knee or lap (depending on height), scrolling up and down using a built in mouse pad is fine until your arm hits the back of the chair or sofa (depending on what you have put your bottom on). Surely moving left and right would address this restrictive movement?

For your viewing and consideration pleasure, 40 of what WDL considers to be the best horizontal scrolling sites. As the designers know, going landscape instead of portrait also offers different screen and interaction affordances, so maybe we ought to give horizontal a goJ

3] From inner strength comes naked people
Zappos has always been touted as the leaders in company visions and employee relationships have opted for a naked man wearing a fanny pack running around NY as its viral video campaign. Punters cant decide whether it’s a flop or not, so you decide.

Have a blustery yet fairly warm rest of Thursday and see you at Robins Shin Dig tonightJ

Orientation, Virtual Continuum, URLs and keywords

1] Ok. So you really telling me that no one except for Natalie felt slightly sick playing with Design and the Elastic Mind that I sent round last week?
Did you really not get lost? Not know where you were? Got confused about where to go next and how to get back?….really? Did you even get in and get dirty? Well, we’ll let that one go and give you this weeks non-testing instalmentJ

2] It kills me to do it, but  I fear I must since the author touches upon some ingrained concepts such as Paul Milgrams Virtuality Continuum to explain interaction design for AR ( yup, AR – againJ)
The Virtuality Continuum is a phrase used to describe a concept that there is a continuous scale ranging between the completely virtual, a Virtual Reality, and the completely real: Reality. The reality-virtuality continuum therefore encompasses all possible variations and compositions of real and virtual objects.

3] When was the last time you looked/watched an ad, went away, rocked up at your browser and typed in the url from the ad? Seriously, when? For ages now, I’ve been going on about keywords and search but  keywords are not just a search thing. They are a way of remembering thing.

The attentive and the cinema loving may recall how several years ago American movie trailers replaced movie/videoclips/trailers with the line ‘search for harry potter on aol’ This is now commonplace on trailers for a reason. People couldn’t, still can’t and don’t want to remember urls. People don’t want to know about the structure of the url until perhaps they get there. 

They get url blindess when they see them. They click on enticing copy to get there or they assume that they can just search and they will find.

This old story does very well as an exemplar to illustrate and this newer one that re-iterates. So bear that in mind the next time we really get the urge to stick a  url on a poster or bus. Keywords rule (and that’s why SEO is importantJ)

Have a lovely couple of days doing what you love at work and after that a lovely couple of days  aka the weekend – doing what you love when you don’t have to workJ