Over the last few weeks, Jennifer Boriss has published a bunch of great articles on her blog. First, she wrote about a usability test with somebody who’s never used a computer:
Me: “Joe, let’s pretend you’ve sat down at this computer, and your goal is finding a local restaurant to eat at.”
Joe: “But I don’t know what to do.”
Me: “I know, but I want you to approach this computer like you approach a city you’re not familiar with. I want you to investigate and look around try and figure out how it works. And I want you to talk out loud about what you’re thinking and what you’re trying.”
(I show Joe how to use a mouse. He looks skeptical, but takes it in his hand and stares at the screen.)
Joe: “I don’t know what anything means.”
A lot of the stuff we take for granted makes absolutely no sense to somebody who has never seen a computer before.
Next, she wrote about a new research project trying to determine how to best order previously visited links.
While our goal is to make users more efficient at their browsing tasks, what makes them more efficient is a question we keep returning to. Most other browsers display links on new tab pages based on frecency. Frecency is a portmanteau which combines frequency and recency. At Mozilla, we use it to refer to sites that users have been to often, recently, or both. It’s how we calculate what should be the first, second, third, etc site that appears when you type a letter into Firefox’s URL bar.
Using frecency to list links on a new tab page seems an obvious design direction, but we want to truly investigate whether another solution would be best for users.
And finally, she wrote about how people recognize websites:
The Mozilla user experience team often designs features that represent sites to users in a variety of ways. For example, Firefox tabs display favicons and page titles, while Panorama displays favicons, titles, and page thumbnails. So, I thought it would be useful to investigate the effectiveness of various ways of representing sites to users.
One interesting piece of research on page representation was published by Shaun Kaasten, Saul Greenberg, and Christopher Edwards at the University of Calgary in their paper How People Recognize Previously Seen Web Pages from Titles, URLs and Thumbnails (download it here). This team conducted a series of studies, most of which involved increasing one variable which represented a site the user had previously visited (such as thumbnail size) until the user recognized it, at which point the user would buzz in to stop the expansion and identify the site.
Her blog is well worth following.
If you require a short url to link to this article, please use http://ignco.de/410