Posts Tagged ‘usability’

Usability works for Virgin Holidays website

February 12, 2008

According to an article today on the website, the Virgin Holidays website has “secured a 90% increase in conversions in recent months” thanks to a usability overhaul from the Bunnyfoot company. Also claimed is “the number of online bookings for Virgin Holidays has doubled in past year”.

The full story is at


Web usability glossary added to the website

January 30, 2008
The website at now features a web usability glossary, which attempts to explain some of the terms used when talking about web usability, websites and usability in general.
The new section can be found at:

Ski resort websites tested for usability

January 21, 2008
This new report looks at the usability of several ski resort websites, with the main focus on the usability of online information:
– Is the information easy to find via the website’s navigation?
– Is the content well-presented and easy to read?
– Does the website fulfill all the user’s information needs?
The report can be downloaded from

Basic Web Usability Blunders – Part 1

January 10, 2008

Its amazing how many websites commit the most basic of Web Usability Blunders – and usually websites of all sizes, budgets and markets are equally prone to these mistakes.

The first of the Web Usability Blunders I’ll take a look at is a problem thats been around since the first homepage with graphics – Homepages with Large File Sizes and High Download Times

These are often the most appealing homepages, but also often the most annoying – due to heavy use of graphics they simply take too long to download. Even with the recent march towards broadband, not every web user has access to broadband.

During a recent review of websites in various tourism-related industries, such as sailing, golf and skiing, I found every website was over the recommended maximum homepage size of between 40-80 KB.

Here’s some facts and figures pulled from this review:

  • only 2 of the 14 homepages were anywhere near the 40-80 KB – at 88 KB and 92 KB.
  • the largest found was a massive 1700 KB – including 599 KB graphics files and 981 KB Flash files
  • the average size for the 14 homepages was 339 KB (taking out the 1700 KB example, it reduced down to an average of 234 KB)
  • some example download speeds taken from showed that a homepage of 167 KB took 36 seconds to download on a 56k modem and 13 seconds on a 128k ISDN. 11 of the 14 websites tested were over 167 KB in size.

Why is this a Problem?

  • With many users still on slow connections, the download speed of the homepage could take longer than the user is willing to wait. This may lead to them leaving the website, rather than waiting.
  • Large homepage sizes can also sometimes cause problems with search engine spiders, which may sometime not fully spider a page if it is very large, as it may cause a timeout in the connection that the spider has to the page.

How to fix it?

This Web Usability Blunder has a few simple fixes:

  • Use higher compression rates for any JPG files used
  • Reduce the number of graphic files used
  • Reduce the physical size of any graphics files used

Useful online resources

Usability success stories

November 26, 2007

Apple iPod

When Apple entered the mp3 player market with the iPod in 2001, there were already many rival players in the market, but not really any clear market leader.

Many of the existing players were a classic case of the product design not considering the people who were actually going to use the device – the users.

Some problems included

  • Clunky user interfaces that were a chore to use
  • Poor physical design, leading to strange positioning of buttons and features – a classic being the mis-placed volume control
  • Generally ugly design, though there were the odd exceptions, such as some of the iRiver products.

Once the iPod was released and people were regularly using it, it won people over on two main fronts

  • attractive physical design
  • usability of the user interface – simple to use, easy to learn and very effective

It seemed as if someone had designed an mp3 player that they would want to use themselves, unlike almost all of the rival’s players.

Related Links – iPod on Wikipedia | iPod success on Playlist magazine

Nokia mobile phones

Nokia has been the market leader in mobile phone handsets for some time now. This is partly due to them having been involved in the business before its phenomenal growth in the 1990’s and also their involvement in the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) standards.

However, I would also say that another major factor in this has been the ease of use of their phones – usability. Accessing the key functions of Nokia phones is always very easy and is a massive plus point for users. After all, who wants to have to search through 5 levels of menu when you want to quickly read an sms that has just come in.

Its not a coincidence that people have said to me many times “Once you’ve used a Nokia phone, you won’t want to move to another brand.” And this is all to do with the usability of the phone, rather than any features or physical design attributes.

Related Links – Nokia Interface Expert on | Nokia on Wikipedia

Interesting usability derivative – playability

November 21, 2007

UsabilityOne, an Australian usability testing company are setting up playability testing labs, under the guidance of Keith Steury, who worked at Microsoft’s Game Studios, also in playability labs.

The usual usability testing environment – one-way glass, user being recorded etc. – will be applied in this new area. The aim is to streamline the player’s experience with the game, its interface and navigation.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

IWWUA 2007 – 1st International Workshop on Web Usability and Accessibility, Nancy, 3 Dec 2007

November 12, 2007

This workshop is part of WISE 2007, full title “Web Information Systems Engineering”, an international conference taking place for the 8th time, in Nancy, France. The workshop runs from 0900-1700 on Monday December 3rd.

I’ll be going along, as it seems a good chance to pick up some new information on usability, see different perspectives on usability and also network with usability professionals and researchers.

The workshop program covers web usability techniques, accessibility techniques, navigation model usability, usability and accessibility evaluation and much more, so should be an interesting day.

The website for the workshop is:

The website for WISE 2007 is: