The Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement (IDEA) has produced a useful report on the factors that improve online experiences.
The study looked at how people find information online and how the experience of web site visitors can be improved. It also sought to understand the differences between the actual and perceived needs of end users.
Understanding this difference is important because web designers are typically overly optimistic about users’ ability to use a web site and find the information they need.
Here are the key takeaways from the report:
- Designers underestimate user expectations for an effective site.
- Easy access to complete information is key to visitor enjoyment.
- Good visual design and up-to-date information are critical.
- Visitors want information fast.
- Visitors want a broad range of topics.
- Designers are overly optimistic about visitors’ ability to maintain orientation.
- Visitors still need handholding.
- Visitors point to the lack of breadth and depth of site content as causing an “Information Gap.”
From my experiences of watching people use web sites they are incredibly hard to use, even ones which are well laid out, have good content and a straightforward IA.
I find myself continually surprised and bemused by the difficulty with which users find information, navigate, use search, and so on.
A good example of the gap between designers’ expectations of users and their actual abilities is the debate about the need for the ‘Home’ button in site navigation. Really, should this even be in question?
I prefer to include it. After all, why take the chance? No one could ever complain that including a home link in your navigation was a bad design decision.
[via Demystifying Usability]