Thursday, June 22, 2006

Research Conference Addresses Web Usability

Results from Usability Week Conference ...

"If a graphic is online but nobody sees it, does it make any noise? That is one of the existential questions that was addressed at the Nielsen Norman Group's Usability Week conference in San Francisco this week.

Usability Week is a three-day session focused on Web design. The event was in New York in March, London in May, and will be in Sydney in July.

Nielsen Norman researchers presented findings from their eye-tracking studies, the latest way to tell what users see and how they react to various designs when searching the Internet.

"People really learn quickly and evolve when they're using the Web," said Kara Pernice Coyne, director of research for Neilsen Norman. "You're able to screen things out and choose what you want to look at when it comes to the Web. So we never really know which things people have purposefully recognized and decided to screen out versus not even knowing it's there."

Figuring that out a bit more precisely is the goal of the eye-tracking research. Pernice Coyne and her colleague Dr. Jakob Nielsen, principal of Nielsen Norman, led a research project in which they used a Tobii 1750 eye-tracking device to observe 255 people searching the Web. The device is able to observe retinal action and create heat maps that indicated how long users looked at various portions of the sites.

"What experts agree to is that if a user is thinking about a particular task, then they are indeed at least fixating and thinking about it," Pernice Coyne said. "That doesn't mean that they understood it."   continued ...   (Via PC Magazine)

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