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by Joline Vergauwen

As mentioned in our article about eye-tracking, the graphical presentation of the
eye-movement of prospects, the time needed to process the information and the focus on several elements can give you a lot of information about how people read your site and how it can be improved to make it more user-friendly.

Besides an eye-tracking analysis done by a specialized company, e.g. BlackNinja, there are some small things you can do to make your website visible easier and enjoyable.

We selected 7 usability findings of one of our favourite usability consultants, Jakob Nielsen.

“Prioritizing Web Usability,” written by Jakob Nielsen and Hoa Loranger, compares old studies with new studies of guidelines to make websites better.

1. People focus on faces


Human beings’ attention instinctively is drawn to faces. Even more, if that face is looking somewhere else than at us, we automatically look in that direction. You can take advantage of this phenomenon by drawing your users’ attention to the most important parts of your page or ad with strong images.

2. People do not scroll


Jakob Nielsen’s study shows how much users scroll. Only 23% of visitors scroll on their first visit to a website. This means that 77% of visitors won’t scroll; they’ll just view the content above the fold (the area of the page that is visible on the screen without scrolling down). It is, therefore, to put the most important information above the fold, but be careful not to overload the space with information. Click-throughs that lead you further down the page or to a connecting page are very useful.

3. Blue is the best colour for links


Users should be able to recognize a link. Some considerations: first, links have to be dark (or light) enough to contrast with the background colour. Second, links should stand out from the colour of the rest of the text. Finally, research shows that if usability is your priority, sticking to the colour blue for links is the best option. The browser’s default link colour is blue, so people expect it.

4. The ideal search box is 27-characters wide


Jakob Nielsen’s study found that the average search box is 18-characters wide. The data showed that 27% of the search requests were too long to fit. Extending the box to 27 characters would accommodate 90% of the search requests. In general, search boxes are better too wide than too short, so that users can quickly review, verify and submit the query.

5. White space enhances comprehension


Proper use of white space between paragraphs and in the left and right margins increases comprehension by almost 20%. Readers find it easier to focus on, and spaced content is processed better.

6. User testing doesn’t have to be expensive


Jakob Nielsen’s study on the ideal number of test subjects in usability tests found that tests with just five users would reveal about 85% of all problems with your website whereas 15 users would find pretty much all problems. The biggest issues are usually discovered by the first one or two users, and the next testers confirm these problems and find the remaining minor issues.

7. Users want a lot of useful product information


Provide detailed information about your products, but don’t overload users with too much text. Make the page easy to scan and read by breaking up the text into smaller blocks and using plenty of sub-titles. Add a lot of images for your products, and don’t use jargon that your visitors might not understand.



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