10 Unexpected Online User Behaviors to Look Out For

When designing a website, there are key user behaviours that should be taken into account. But in order to take them into account, it helps to know them. Below are 10 of the more interesting and less well-known user behaviours that regularly occur in user testing:

People have banner blindness

People don’t notice banners. It’s been found in eye tracking studies their gaze literally avoids settling on any area that looks like an advert instead it seems people actively try to avoid looking at them. This effect is called banner blindness.

Banner blindness affects most people, and has a startling side effect. Useful areas of the site that are overly graphically designed (and end up looking like an advert) are ignored by users as though they were adverts.

Usability Testing for Your Web Site

This morning, I am attending a shortened session about usability testing called “Usability Testing Without the Scary” by Dana Chisnell, author of The Handbook of Usability Testing. She presented the full version of this session yesterday during the all-day sessions, while I was attending the HTML5 and CSS3 presentation from Molly.

For this session, Chisnell began by asking the audience for some of the main points we would like her to cover in the much shorter timespan she has today. To begin, someone asked the generic question about how we should be performing usability testing. I then asked, as advanced or “power” users, how do we, with limited resources, attempt to understand how the standard user will attempt to use our Web site. One other person asked if there were ways to increase or encourage participation in usability studies.

User Interviews – Analysis Simplified

You’ve conducted the interviews – enlightening weren’t they? It’s now time to put all that information that’s in your head down on paper, and pull it all together into a complete picture.

This article follows on from our previous article which gave tips on how to conduct the interviews themselves. Here we give you some possible techniques to use whilst analysing your interviews, helping mould your results into something tangible.

Form your findings into a narration

After interviews you’ll find that you’ve lots of interesting thoughts and ideas bouncing around your head, but probably in no clear structure. The results will be much easier to understand and convey to others if they are ordered into a clear narration.

Usability Testing Guidelines

In professional web design circles, the usability testing session has become an essential component of any major project. Similar to focus groups in brand development and product launches, usability testing offers a rare opportunity to receive feedback from the very people the website is aimed at – before it’s too late to do anything about it.But how can you get the most from these usability testing sessions?

1. Choosing your subjects

As with any market research project, the results will only be as good as the people you test. Do not test people from your own company, or friends and family. Go to a market research firm or temp agency and ask them to source participants to a certain profile. Make sure the market research firm does not provide the name of the company or any other details that will cloud the judgement of the participants.

2. Before the usability testing

As with everything in life, first impressions are vital. Each participant must be put at ease. Remember, the usability testing session is often an extremely artificial environment and, for the most beneficial and informative results, we want them to behave as if they were using the site at home or work. Provide clear instructions on how to get to the usability testing location, and if necessary meet the participants at local stations. Do not use terms such as ?usability testing? or ?market research?, as these can confuse and put people on edge. Also, ensure that participants know how long the usability testing will take, and the type of tasks they will be expected to perform. After the initial greeting and welcoming drinks, there are always legal forms that must be signed. It is essential that these are written in plain English, and are as short as possible. The last thing any nervous usability testing subject wants is to be given a contract that looks like they’re signing their soul away. All you want is for them to be reassured that the tests are completely confidential, and for permission to use the data generated during the test as part of our results. So tell them that.

Usability Testing with Children

Usability testing with children is similar in many respects to usability testing with adults. In order to get the most out of the sessions, and ensure the child is comfortable and happy, there are a few differences that you need to be aware of.

Stress of new people and surroundings

Children are far more likely than adults to find encountering new places and people stressful. You should always remember this, so try to find as many ways as possible to relax the child. Some things you could do are:

  • Allow a significant period of time – at least 10 minutes – to meet the child. This is critical in putting them at ease before beginning the session. Some easy things to talk about might be computer games, cartoons, sports or school. Trying to make all the equipment used during the session match that which the child uses at home/school (phone up their parents/teachers beforehand to check).
  • Try to be as comforting and reassuring as possible. It’s especially important to make it clear to the child that you want their views on the site and that you’re not testing them.
  • Plan for the fact that younger children may prefer their parents to remain in the testing room with them. Make sure that parents know that they should stay out of the child’s line-of-sight and not help or distract them.

Asking for help

Children are far more used to asking for – and receiving – help than adults, so it’s very important for the moderator to:

  • Clearly explain at the beginning of the test that you want the child to use the site on their own
  • Make a sustained effort to deflect any such questioning during the session itself

Good ways of deflecting questions can include:

  • Answering a question with a question (e.g. What do you think [you should do now]?)
  • Re-stating that you want the child to use the site ‘on their own’
  • Asking the child to have ‘one last go’ before you move on to something else

Children get tired, bored and discouraged more easily

Children (especially of younger ages) are less inclined – and/or able – to apply themselves to a single task for a prolonged period. Some ways to work around this are:

  • Limiting sessions to 1 hour or less.
  • Taking short breaks during sessions if the child becomes tired or irritable.
  • Ensuring that sessions cover the intended tasks/scenarios in a different order – this will make sure that the same scenarios are not always tested by tired children, who are less likely to succeed/persevere.
  • Asking the child for help so as to provide them with motivation (e.g. asking ‘Could you please find out for me how to…’, or by actually pretending to not be able find/do something on the site).
  • Keeping up a steady stream of encouragement and positive feedback (“You’re doing really well and telling us lots of useful things – it will really help make the site better. Keep it up!”).

The importance of non-verbal cues

Children can’t always be relied upon to verbally articulate their thoughts/feelings, either due to their:

  • Not being articulate enough
  • Being too shy
  • Not wanting to say the wrong thing and displease an adult
  • Saying things they don’t believe just to please the adult

This makes it particularly important that the usability expert be sensitive to children’s non-verbal cues, such as:

  • Sighs
  • Smiles
  • Frowns
  • Yawns
  • Fidgeting
  • Laughing
  • Swaying
  • Body angle and posture

Physical differences

A couple of very obvious – but easily forgotten – differences which need to be taken into account are:

  • Chair and table settings – Make sure you have a chair/table setting that allows the child to comfortably use the equipment during the session.
  • Microphone positioning – Children tend to have quieter voices than adults, so microphones should be placed slightly nearer to the participant than normal.

Levels of literacy and understanding

It is critical to ensure that a session’s participant has an accurate understanding of the scenario being presented to them. Some ways to do this include:

  • Asking participants to re-phrase scenarios/goals in their own words.
  • Asking participants to repeat a scenario (i.e. what they are trying to achieve) if the task has gone on for some time and you suspect they may have forgotten it.

This article was written by Tim Fidgeon, Head of Usability at Webcredible. He’s crazy about usability and runs Webcredible’s writing for the web training and is passionate about user centered design.