Archive for the ‘Usability’ Category

Hidden Functionality — Hints And Affordance

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Many of today have extremely advanced features and functionality. But the trend towards simpler, slicker user interfaces points towards hiding some of the functionality. Hiding functionality is — in my point of view — a very good thing for usability.

A usable website (or application) is:

  • easy to use
  • easy to learn
  • hard to make errors in

Door handle Usability

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

What’s a usability blog without a post about door handles?

Daniel Szuc just pointed me to this photo from Joe Goldberg (via webword).
Doorhandle usability, school for the gifted

How To Align Labels On Form Fields

Friday, April 20th, 2007 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Form usability revisited. In case you missed it, here is why to prefer top-aligned labels on form elements

Tag your e-mails with Thunderbird 2

Thursday, April 19th, 2007 by Thomas Watson Steen

One of the cornerstones in Web 2.0 are the folksonomy, a user generated taxonomy, popularly referred to as tags. Google made tags popular (they call them labels) when they launched Gmail (taxonomy) and the online bookmark service gave us tags + social network = folksonomy. Today Mozilla launched their e-mail client ‘Mozilla Thunderbird 2’ […]

Scrolling vs. E-mails

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007 by Thomas Watson Steen

Ever heard the term “Below the fold”? This refers to the time before online, before internet – in the days when newspapers ruled the world. When folding a newspaper in half you only see the top part, and the adverts and headlines in the bottom part of the front-page don’t get get that much attention. […]

Stop Usability Problems at Its Inception

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Jared Spool has a thoughtful article “Usability Testing. Oh, The Things You Learn“. One of his points is that web development teams have made decisions at certain times where usability problems are introduced because key information is missing at design time. Preventing Usability Problems in the First Place If you trace any usability problem to […]

Inconsistency at 26 Google Sites

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Chris McEvoy has some good and thorough observations around the inconsistencies in Google’s menues. Even though the menus are extremely simple, they seem to differ on most of the 26 sites mentioned. Below are Chris’ observations from his article A to z of Google Information Architecture: Here are 26 different sets of menu items for […]

Usability Test Results Too Diverse?

Friday, February 16th, 2007 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Rolf Molich has done a lot to make the usability profession what it is today. He keeps asking questions to what we thought would be common wisdom 5 years ago, and he keeps asking questions. Now, addressing the fact that usability test results can be very diverse (and often are). “If you have 500 problems […]

Jakob Nielsen Mentions Bad Usability Calendar in Latest Newsletter

Monday, February 12th, 2007 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Just a quick note. Jakob Nielsen mentions Bad Usability Calendar in his latest newsletter, and links to our Norwegian friends at NetLife Research that originally published it.

Bad Usability Calendar 2007 in Danish

Friday, February 9th, 2007 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Thomas Baekdal and I have translated and are now publishing Bad Usability Calendar 2007 in Danish. I can highly recommend using this calendar in projects as wallpaper. But good luck on using it for actual planning. This year’s version contains advice regarding AJAX, overwhelming use of graphics, advertising, and much more. Download Bad Usability Calendar […]

100,000 Blog Spam Comments

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007 by Thomas Watson Steen

Today got spam comment number 100,000. But actually the real number is much higher since we have incorporated a couple of measures to catch the spam even before it reaches WordPress or Akismet. We have for example been blocking certain keywords that we found where common in spam that slipped through Akismet, or we […]

Bad Usability Calendar 2007 Finally Ready

Saturday, January 27th, 2007 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

I’ve been waiting for this with excitement: Eidar and the rest of NetLife Research in Norway have finally released the 2007 version of Bad Usability Calendar. Direct download: Bad Usability Calendar 2007 (1.2 MB PDF) Very nice to see that the calendar actually is released under a Creative Commons license, so you can translate it […]

Usability Heatmaps, Eyetracking vs Mousetracking

Thursday, December 21st, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Recently I was recommended taking a look at CrazyEgg which could be a possible candidate for creating heatmaps of user navigation. Rather than to be specific to CrazyEgg, I would like to comment on the general principles and pitfalls when using the methodology that CrazyEgg uses. Heatmap (from CrazyEgg demo site) As I understand, it […]

Simplest “Import Data” User Interface Ever

Friday, December 15th, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

The new Google Finance has introduced the simplest “import” feature I have ever seen. Just have a look at this promise right above a big text field for inputting data from other finance sites. Copy your portfolio from any site and paste it into the form below. Be sure to get the column headers. One […]

Click Here To Restart Your Car

Thursday, December 14th, 2006 by Thomas Watson Steen

I just saw the very funny usability video called ‘Lexus Self-Parking “Usability” Test‘ (via Matthew Oliphant). Car manufactures stuff more and more electronic gear into our ‘intelligent’ cars – But how does that effect the user experience? The fellas in the video are not impressed. They even get into a fight over how to operate […]

More Features, Slower User Interface

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

I might be stating the obvious here, but it’s sometimes good to be able to back it up by real research. Via Jakob Nielsen’s “Productivity and Screen Size“: The distinction between operations and tasks is important in application design because the goal is to optimize the user interface for task performance, rather than sub-optimize it […]

Happy Birthday “Usability Must Die”

Thursday, November 30th, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Even with the radical website title, I think it deserves a mention that UsabilityMustDie celebrates its fifth anniversary. Congratulations to Chris McEvoy! Keep up the good and humorous work. My favorite of Chris McEvoy’s work is the Jakob Nielsen spoof article “Why Ajax Sucks (most of the time)” where he basically just replaced “Frames” with […]

Usability tip: Amazon Vote for Deal Feature

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Here is an example from, on how to encourage people to participate. Users have to vote for the deal they like the best. This way, people are encouraged to do an active act. Unless you vote for it, you’re not even able to buy it for that price. Very encouraging. Amazon could really collect […]

Save Button Usability Issues

Monday, November 27th, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

The other day I noted that the Restart button in Windows probably appeared because of buggy software. It was a frequent task that people used often, hence there was a value in combining the two steps (shut down, then start) into one Restart action. This is a lot like the “save” button, where I heard […]

Windows Vista Off Button Usability Issues

Sunday, November 26th, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Below is my argument that some user interface widgets are introduced only because of buggy software. First let’s have a look at Windows Vista. Joel Spolsky is picking on the 24 people that designed the Off button in Windows Vista: Choices = Headaches. I’m sure there’s a whole team of UI designers, programmers, and testers […]

Paradox of Choice — Barry Schwartz Video

Friday, November 24th, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

The most influential talk I have heard this year is Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice. I cannot recommend this talk enough, so I was thrilled to see that Barry did a similar talk that’s available on Google Video. Google TechTalks April 27, 2006 Barry Schwartz Paradox of Choice (one hour video). If you’re […]

Usability Toolkit Now Available

Thursday, November 16th, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Daniel Szuc tipped me about The Usability Toolkit, now available from Sitepoint. I just ordered a set, and I’m really looking forward to this, as I remember Daniel mentioned the toolkit when I met him at UI 11 last month. Understand usability and get the tools to put it into practice Learn the essentials with […]

Blog Usability: Distracting Bookmark Icons

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

“Make this page my home page” Do you remember this from the pre-bubble era? Lots of websites had a link like this. Who used it by the way? I didn’t! Here’s Altavista homepage from February 2000. Image from Internet Archive Now it has gotten even worse on blogs. From Matt over at 37Signals, “It’s the […]

Blog Usability: We dumped our archives

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006 by Thomas Watson Steen

Today is World Usability Day. Here on, we have celebrated with finally scrapping our blog archive. Instead we are now just showing the latest 50 articles on the front page, followed by a link to the previous 50. Those are in turn followed by a similar link and so on. The concept of archives […]

88% never use personalization

Monday, November 13th, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

I conducted a little research today on our intranet. We have a links list that can be personalized to your preference. It turns out that 88% never use it. Of 4,264 users, only 524 people have edited their links list. That’s 12% that uses (or at least have used it at some point). I am […]

Bad Usability Calendar 2007 open for proposals

Friday, November 10th, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Our Norwegian friends at Netlife Research have opened for suggestions to next years Bad Usability Calendar. I already used the 2006 calendar with great impact in my professional engagements, and I’m really looking forward to next year’s version. To make a calendar for 2007 that has the same level of unusual unusefulness, we would like […]

Actual Browser Sizes (final)

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006 by Thomas Watson Steen

The numbers are in! Jesper first asked the question in “Design for Browser Size — Not Screen Size” and quickly after Thomas Baekdal of took up the challenge. After publishing his preliminary results he have now unveiled the final report: The report finds, among other things, that the majority of people browse maximized or […]

CAPTCHA usability: Humane alternative to CAPTCHA

Monday, October 23rd, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Revisiting CAPTCHA: Since W3C wrote about “inaccessibility of CAPTCHA” almost a year ago, a new technique has emerged: Using technology, to make it easier for humans, and challenging for robots to fill out a form, and using a more traditional fall-back method in the rare cases where the system cannot detect if a human is […]

UI Conf: My Higlights from UI11

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

UI11 is over and I headed back to Denmark to digest the insightful presentations. The conference had many highlights and it was truly inspirational to meet so many bright people.Some highlights are worth mentioning. Fantastic speakers Meeting Luke Wroblewski made me realize there is much to being a successful designer than just graphical design. Most […]

Bad Usability Calendar

Monday, October 16th, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Perfect wallpaper for any project room. The Bad Usability Calendar from Norwegian company Netlife Research. At UI 11 last week I was fortunate to meet Eidar (photo) from Netlife Research. His usability firm made a Bad Usability Calendar, which is absolutely fantastic. I’m putting the link here directly, as their pages are in Norwegian. Bad […]

Usability Study Video Highlights

Thursday, September 14th, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Jakob Nielsen published a new article “User Testing is Not Entertainment“. The second half is actually about entertainment – sort of. When you’re selecting highlights from usability study videos, you shouldn’t include a 10-minute clip of a user visiting 20 erroneous pages. Show the first one or two wrong clicks, then throw up a transition […]

Browser Size — Actual Numbers

Saturday, September 2nd, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

I asked for numbers confirming my thoughts recently in “Design for Browser Size — Not Screen Size“. First Jakob Skjerning (, and now Thomas Baekdal published his preliminary results. Great to see some thorough work done in this highly important area where pretty much no stat tool or measuring service have ever been. For years […]

Design for Browser Size — Not Screen Size

Thursday, August 17th, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Jakob Nielsen discusses screen resolution and page layout in a recent Alertbox article. As usual, Jakob offers some decent facts and clear guidelines on which screen resolution to design for.

I have the deepest respect for Jakob Nielsen and the work he does to make usability easier to understand and use for everybody. There is just one problem: Findings should focus on browser window size and not screen size.

Blog Usability: Irregular Publishing Frequency

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006 by Thomas Watson Steen

According to Jakob Nielsen’s top ten design mistakes on weblogs the 7th worst thing is irregular publishing frequency. So with no further ado I would just like to thank you guys for keep reading our blog while Jesper and I have been on vacation (Jesper still is by the way). I’ve been totally disconnected for […]

Mobile Web Best Practices

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006 by Thomas Watson Steen

Yesterday the W3C released a Candidate Recommendation document called “Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0“. With this document W3C is offering a set of guidelines to help web developers deliver a better user experience to mobile users. The deadline for providing feedback to W3C is the 27th of August 2006 and all developers are encouraged to […]

Blog Usability: Avoid Spam Comments

Saturday, June 24th, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Since yesterday, the volume of spam comments has gone up even more. Now we get 150 spam comments every 12 hours. (Yesterday it was 21 hours). I promised to tell about what countermeasures we have taken against spam comments. What has that to do with usability? Well, in my opinion, irrelevant comments removes focus from […]

Form usability: A smart country list

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Here is an example of a smart country selector. From installation of an Ipod Nano. The usability principle is called progressive disclosure: First, display the most typical settings, then give the ability to show all in the special cases. Several things I like with this approach: Progressive disclosure: Don’t clutter screen with options that only matter to […]

Definition of User Experience Revisited

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006 by Jesper Rønn-Jensen

Since last time I wrote on the various definitions of user experience, Bryce Glass, Mike Kuniavsky and Thomas Baekdal have made excellent points on the subject of providing a single, clear understandable definition of user experience. Also, I attended Jesse James Garrett’s seminar (“defining the user experience” – my notes) last month, and got a […]

Misleading Error Messages – Litteraly!

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006 by Thomas Watson Steen

We all know that giving the user a correct error message is essential. It is important that the message is clearly visible and written in a way so that there is no doubt what the problem is. Today I was updating my profile photo on Technorati (the current one was of the little fellow in […]

Stupid error messages for intelligent users

Thursday, June 15th, 2006 by Thomas Watson Steen

I have just downloaded and installed a trial version of Stylus Studio, an XML suite for software developers. After the installation the user is prompted for some personal information in order to receive a license key in an e-mail. One of the required fields is a phone number. I wrote 39778440, well knowing that I […]