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Tuesday 6 May 2008

Jakob: keep cutting those word counts

Continuing my love affair with Jakob Nielsen, he has some sound, tested advice from the latest Alertbox:
On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.
Something interesting he cites in the detail is that, although the research is with 'high-end users':
This might not be a problem in the long run, however. If, for example, we compare data we collected in 2008 for our Fundamental Guidelines for Web Usability seminar with a similar study we ran in 2004, we find that 2008's average behavior is close to that of 2004's higher-end users.
The authors found that the Back button is now only the 3rd most-used feature on the Web. Clicking hypertext links remains the most-used feature, but clicking buttons (on the page) has now overtaken Back to become the second-most used feature. The reason for this change is the increased prevalence of applications and feature-rich Web pages that require users to click page buttons to access their functionality.
He also reports two interesting observations from WebSiteOptimization:
(1) Over the last 5 years, the average Web page grew from 94 KB to 312 KB: a growth rate of 82%/year.

(2) Despite this obesity epidemic, observed response times for U.S. users with broadband decreased from 2.8 to 2.3 seconds per page (average across 40 big business sites) from 2006 to 2008.

My comments:

(a) First, let's remember that almost half of the Internet users still don't have broadband, particularly in rural areas. In fact, explicitly decided to design for dial-up access.

(b) While 2.3 seconds is better than 2.8, it's still 130% slower than the 1.0 seconds required for optimal user experience and a true sense of flow while navigating.

(c) In the past, big images were the largest offender, but now response times are delayed by the inclusion of ever-more external objects, code snippets, and "widgets." Keep a lid on it. The biggest contributor to interactivity is still the ability to navigate fast and furiously.

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