Monday, September 25, 2006

6 Ways to Fix a Confused Information Architecture

Detecting and fixing website usability problems ...

"When your website's users consistently go to the wrong sections, you have many options for getting users back on track, from better labels to clearer structure.
We recently user tested a website devoted to one particular product. Single-product sites often have good usability because of their clear focus, but they can still have issues, as our study showed.

One of the bigger problems the test revealed was that users were quite confused about two sections of the site's information architecture (IA): Foo Basics and Using Foo. ("Foo" isn't the product’s real name; because this was a client project, I have to keep details confidential.)

We tested 8 users on many tasks. In 7 of those tasks, users needed to go to either "Foo Basics" or "Using Foo."

The following table shows the sections users visited first. The cells representing a task's correct choice are color-coded according to the users' initial click:

- green indicates that at least two-thirds of participants immediately used the correct link;
- yellow indicates that between one-third and two-thirds of users immediately used the correct link; and
- red indicates that less than one-third of users clicked correctly the first time.

Out of 56 task attempts, users immediately went to the correct site section in only 25 cases -- a mere 45% of the time. (The ultimate success rate was higher because users sometimes realized their mistakes and then found the correct area.)

In this case, we discovered the IA problem through user testing. If you know in advance that you have an IA problem and want to focus on it exclusively in your testing, you can conduct a card sorting study. For most projects, however, I prefer to keep an open mind and do standard user testing, which addresses all design aspects. In this case, for example, we found problems beyond the IA, including those with the site's writing, visual design, forms, error messages, and a service that was difficult to understand."    (Continued via Alertbox)    [Usability Resources]

Sections users visited first. - Usability, User Interface Design

Sections users visited first.


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