Monday, March 26, 2007

Does User Annoyance Matter?

Nielsen on making it easy on the user ...

"Making users suffer a drop-down menu to enter state abbreviations is one of many small annoyances that add up to a less efficient, less pleasant user experience. It's worth fixing as many of these usability irritants as you can.

So far this year, we've watched users shop on about 50 e-commerce sites. All but one of the sites violated a documented guideline for checkout design: they required users to manipulate a drop-down menu to enter their state abbreviations, rather than simply let them type in the two characters.

The exception was, which offered the faster and more pleasant typing option. Amazon thus confirmed that even though the average e-commerce site should not copy its overall design it continues to be the leader in complying with usability guidelines for individual design elements.

Knowing a better design exists made it painful to sit, day after day, and watch users fight with the mouse to scroll through the huge menu. Sometimes users selected the wrong menu option and then had to waste even more time with the drop-down. And, in this study, we mainly tested young, able-bodied users; the situation is even worse for elderly users, who have more difficulty with extensive, fine-tuned mouse manipulations. And it's worse yet for users with disabilities.

We observed the same problem again earlier this month when watching Chinese users shop on international sites: users suffered a lot of needless interaction overhead when trying to select "Hong Kong" from immense drop-downs containing hundreds of countries and territories.

Sites offer drop-downs for state abbreviations under the theory that doing so prevents input errors. But that's not true: menus are more error prone than typing because the mouse scroll wheel often makes users inadvertently change the state field's content after they've moved their gaze elsewhere on the screen. In contrast, everybody knows how to type their own state's two letters, and it's always faster to enter this information through the keyboard than the mouse.

(Regarding input errors: whatever the input method, sites should validate that the ZIP code/postal code corresponds to the state, province, or other locality entered by the user. Because postal codes are more error prone, you must use validation code on the backend, regardless of whether or not you use a drop-down for the state.)"    (Continued via Alertbox)    [Usability Resources]


Post a Comment

<< Home

<< Home