Well, February was an extremely busy month, and for the shortest month of the year was packed with quite a few gems from the User Experience community. Here is a re-cap of a few articles and concepts that should not go without mention: Read the rest of this article »
An MIT and Harvard study (via Slashdot) unveils that the SiteKey system employed by Bank of America, ING Direct and Yahoo!, among others are likely ineffective at protecting users against fraudulent sites. The SiteKey system is based on assigning an image to a user’s account and presenting it prior to the user entering a password. If the SiteKey does not match the user’s account image, he/she should deduce that the site is not authentic, and thus not safe to enter private information. The results of the study (based on Bank of America site and users) shows that a vast majority of people ignore the SiteKey clues along with the often-overlooked HTTPS indicators. In fact, only 2 of the 25 (8%) participants using their own account, and none of the other 42, chose not to enter their passwords when the site-authentication image was replaced by an upgrade message.
Another interesting finding in the study was the contrast between behaviors of participants that were role playing for the study and those that were actually inputting sensitive information. Definitely worth a read and the final paper is set to appear at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy from May 20-27, 2007 in Oakland, California.
The latest issue of Usability News from the Software Usability and Research Lab (SURL), has a very interesting study - “Eye Gaze Patterns while Searching vs. Browsing a Website” - on web users’ eye gaze patterns while browsing and searching web sites. Findings from the study show that the ‘F’ pattern as described by Jakob Nielson does not hold true for some kinds of web sites.
Results show that users follow a fairly uniform scan path when browsing through pictures, and a more random path while specifically searching through them.
In fact, not only does the study suggest that users’ viewing patterns depend on the nature of the web page (text-rich versus image-rich) but also by the users’ tasks (browsing versus searching).
In a previous article, ‘4 Principles of Effective Navigation on the Web‘, one of the stated keys is letting users know where they can go. One of the most effective ways to let users know what paths are available to them is to expose subsequent destination points. In other words, bubbling up subsections and pages found within top-level sections helps users gain context as well as unearths particular destinations within those sections. Let’s start with an example to illustrate what I mean.
Imagine that you are in a supermarket buying groceries for dinner. Imagine also that this supermarket does not label what kinds of items can be found in each aisle making it impossible for you to know where to go for the next item on your list. To make things worse, the aisles in the store shift around without warning and you never know quite where you are with respect to the last place you’ve been.
This painfully frustrating scenario seems outlandish, yet many websites put their users in this precise situation. Read the rest of this article »
What if you could measure how perfect your website was? If you could definitively say that your website was 100%, pure perfection, wouldn’t you grasp the chance to test how it fares in the test? Well, the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) recently released the results of a study commissioned by Rackspace Managed Hosting which claims to provide exactly this: the ‘Perfect Website Formula.’
On Wednesday, TechCrunch and Mashable reported the release of Stumble Video, the latest offering from StumbleUpon. Like the core offering, Stumble Video allows users to surf through categories based on preferences and previous ratings, serving up videos instead of websites into one central video player. Beyond a great idea, the implementation is clean and engaging, and happily, the interaction is kept consistent through one player with simple choices and great use of iconography.
On Tuesday, Techcrunch reported that MySpace has semi-officially overtaken Yahoo as having the most page views of any internet property. This revelation was met with moderate fanfare, and other prominent industry blogs like GigaOm and Searchblog did not even go there. There is good reason to take this news with a grain of salt, as it is misrepresentative and hides some very important facts.
On Friday, Techcrunch reported on a rumor that the major television networks were planning a joint effort to create their own video web site that would offer the networks’ own content. This seemed like a logical move to regain revenue lost to websites that profit from illegally disseminated property belonging to the networks. Alas, these plans soon fell apart when individual networks started to take favor with Google-owned YouTube after receiving payoffs. Not only is this a great case-study of game theory, it is also an excellent example of missed opportunities and foregone revenue.
Why don’t the individual networks make content available on their own websites?!
On Monday, Techdirt writes about the concerns that BitTorrent creator, Bram Cohen has regarding the integration of Digital Rights Management (DRM) into his widely popular “peer distributed” product. As the company approaches launch of a store which will controlled by Windows DRM, the issue of the DRM usability has been called into question.
This is a case in point of businessmen demanding that steps be taken to ensure revenue increases without paying due dilligence to the end-user and the ramifications of a poor user experience. Time will only tell how this negligence will play out, but it’s great to see an executive stepping forward to admit these failures and concerns. With formidable competition in the media download space such as Guba and DRM-free emusic.com the race to provide affordable download services with usable rights protection and platform compatability is at full force. Another player, Spiral Frog is set to enter the space this month.
From the original interview on BitTorrent’s future, Cohen is quoted:
We’re rolling out with some content DRM’d, using Windows DRM, at the insistence of our content partners. We’re very concerned about the usability problems DRM introduces, and are educating our content partners about the lost commercial opportunity.