E-commerce Usability: News Archive

News Archive

This page contains links to web pages relevant to e-commerce usability. For books, go to the usability bookshelf.

The pages are organised around the customer centred model described in the book (for an overview of the model, download Chapter 1 from the Sample chapters section).

Identify the stakeholders

Overseas Development Administration (1995) Guidance note on how to do stakeholder analysis of aid projects and programmes
Not a web project, but an excellent case study containing checklists and worked examples of a stakeholder analysis.

Write the site mandate

AWARE (undated) Competitor analysis — a brief guide
'Collecting Information on competitors can be likened to prospecting for gold. Nuggets are a rarity. The prospector will need to sift through a lot of soil, to find the few grains of gold which make the task worthwhile. Occasionally, the prospector will even be tricked by iron pyrites — or “fool's gold”!'

Robert Manning (2000) Internet branding and the user experience
'In the Internet space, branding means creating a great user experience. Internet branding moves beyond logo, tagline, key messages and graphic identity into the customer's real-time interaction with the brand, for the entirety of the online experience.'

Sean Carton (2000) Brand is back
'While many consumers give lip-service to price when describing what drives them to a particular site, it's the unique features that make shopping easier and more satisfying — such as customer support, value, and overall satisfaction -- that keep them coming back.'

UsabilityNet (2001) Competitor analysis
A 'how-to-do-it' tutorial.

Segment the market

Market research and Internet statistics focussing on e-commerce.

W3C (1999) Web content accessibility guidelines 1.0
These guidelines explain how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities.

Build customer profiles

Fuccella, J., Pizzolato, J., Franks, J. (1998) Web site user centered design: techniques for gathering requirements and tasks
'The intent of this article is to provide Web site usability engineers with practical techniques for quickly and effectively identifying user expectations for their sites, both in terms of content and functionality'

Goodwin, K. (2001) Perfecting your personas
'These tips will help you refine your personas so you can get the most out of them'.

Nielsen, J. (2001) Are users stupid?
'Opponents of the usability movement claim that it focuses on stupid users and that most users can easily overcome complexity. In reality, even smart users prefer pursuing their own goals to navigating idiosyncratic designs. As Web use grows, the price of ignoring usability will only increase.'

Venn, J. (2001) Stalk your user
'Design, ultimately, is problem solving. And the best way to discover which problems need solving is to look for them in context.'

Build environment profiles

Find out how Internet users are viewing the Web (monthly statistics on browsers, OS, screen resolution, etc.).

Build task profiles

Travis, D.S. (1997) When GUIs fail
'Usable systems are defined by their focus on the user's tasks, not by a pretty interface. Our informal studies show that 60 per cent of a system's usability comes from task focus, 25 per cent from consistency and just 15 per cent from presentation of information.'

Travis, D.S. (1997) How to turn your dot.com into a hot.com 'Experience scenarios help you get to the essence of what customers want to do at your site. They differ from simple use cases, because use cases rarely include context information and tend to focus on atomic tasks.'

Lewis, C. and Rieman, J. (1993) Task-centered user interface design. Chapter 2: getting to know users and their tasks
Every chapter in this $5 shareware book is worth reading, but this chapter on users and tasks is especially good

Agree key performance indicators

Nielsen, J. (2001) Usability metrics
'Although measuring usability can cost four times as much as conducting qualitative studies (which often generate better insight), metrics are sometimes worth the expense. Among other things, metrics can help managers track design progress and support decisions about when to release a product.'

Perfetti, C. (2001) The truth about download time
'We hear all the time from web designers that they spend countless hours and resources trying to speed up their web pages' download time because they believe that people are turned off by slow-loading pages. What we discovered may surprise you.'

Develop the information architecture

Nielsen, J. (2000) Is navigation useful?
'For almost seven years, my studies have shown the same user behavior: users look straight at the content and ignore the navigation areas when they scan a new page.'

Toub, S. (2000) Evaluating information architecture
'This white paper explores the why's, what's, and how's of evaluating a web site's information architecture.'

Layout the screens

Instone, K. (2002) Breadcrumbs
A site devoted to questions and research issues surrounding breadcrumbs.

Mok, C. and Zauderer, V. (2001) Timeless principles of design: four steps to designing a killer Web site
Describes ten general guidelines for developing a graphical user interface.

Nielsen, J. (2000) Drop-down menus: use sparingly
Drop-down menus are often more trouble than they are worth and can be confusing because Web designers use them for several different purposes. Also, scrolling menus reduce usability when they prevent users from seeing all their options in a single glance.

Evaluate usability

Nielsen, J. (2000) Heuristic evaluation
Jakob Nielsen's online writings on heuristic evaluation.

Nielsen, J. (2000) Why you only need to test with 5 users
'Some people think that usability is very costly and complex and that user tests should be reserved for the rare web design project with a huge budget and a lavish time schedule. Not true. Elaborate usability tests are a waste of resources. The best results come from testing no more than five users and running as many small tests as you can afford.'

Track real-world usage

Nielsen. J. (1999) Usability as a barrier to entry
'There are two important issues in Web marketing: 1. Getting people to your site in the first place: that's what the advertising budget is for. 2. Making people stay on your site and convert them from one-time visitors to regular users: that's what the usability budget is for.'

User Interface Engineering (2001) Users don't learn to search better
'When we watched 30 users trying to search various sites for content they were interested in, we noticed a peculiar phenomenon: the more times the users searched, the less likely they were to find what they wanted.'

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