Monday, June 09, 2008

The Wheres and Whens of Users' Expectations

Location of sign-in box ...

"Recently, a designer asked us where users expect to find the sign-in box on a web page. Some sites put it on the left and some put it on the right. Has our research shown that one position is better than alternative positions?

A question like this brings up a bigger question of designing for the user's expectations. On the one hand, users, being neither new to the planet nor new to technology, have developed expectations on where certain things should appear. Designing to those expectations can reduce the user's cognitive load and let them focus on their task.

On the other hand, not every de facto standard is the optimal way to design something. Designers rightly resist being constrained to previous approaches, when better alternatives can exist. Some even refer to the improvement on existing standards as "progress."

Therefore, there's a tension: do we design to user's expectations or do we give them a possibly improved experience that defies their expectations? The sign-in box is a good place for us to explore how this tension could play out. To help us resolve this, we can turn to both visual design and interaction design for guidance.
Locations, Locations, Locations

In a recent study involving frequent travelers, we had an opportunity to see first-hand how the sign-in functions worked when placed on different portions of the page. There doesn't seem to be much consistency across travel organizations in how they locate their log in capability.

For example, Hertz.com puts theirs in the center of the left margin, while Marriott.com locates it in the center of the page. USAirways.com puts the username and password across the very top of the page."    (Continued via UIE, Jared Spool)    [Usability Resources]

Hertz Sign-in - Usability, User Interface Design

Hertz Sign-in

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