Over the past few months in this year's "User Interface Update - 2000" course, we conducted a study on how well Web pages were designed to show their links. We refer to this as determining a page's "link affordance" rate.
We compared the link affordances of two home pages, AT&T and L.L. Bean. All participants tried to correctly identify the links on black-and-white paper printouts of the pages.
The findings showed clearly that the L.L. Bean site had a much better link affordance. Both home pages had exactly the same number of links (29). The participants reliably identified an average of 28.2 of the L.L. Bean links, but only 21.9 of the AT&T links (p<.0001). This means that they missed an average of only one L.L. Bean link, but they missed seven of the AT&T links. The link affordance rate for Bean was 97%, while the link affordance rate for AT&T was only 76%. In the latter case, almost one out of every four links would not be clicked without users reverting to slow "mine sweeping" behaviors.
Some argue that using the mouse in a top-to-bottom, left-to-right, mine sweeping motion looking for links is acceptable performance for Web users. I suggest that it is slow, tedious, and frustrating for users.
From this activity we identified many of the cues that were being used to suggest to users that an area of the page was "clickable."
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Bouch, A., Kuchinsky, A. and Bhatti, N. (2000), Quality is in the eye of the beholder: Meeting users' requirements for Internet quality of service, CHI 2000, 297-304.
Miller, R. B. (1968), Response time in user-system conversational transactions, In Proceedings of the AFIPS Fall Joint Computer Conference, 33, 267-277.
Martin, G.L. and Corl, K.G. (1986), System response time effects on user productivity, Behaviour and Information Technology, 5(1), 3-13.
Ramsay, J., Barbesi, A. and Preece, J. (1998), A psychological investigation of long retrieval times on the World Wide Web, Interacting with Computers, 10, 77-86.
Selvidge, P.R., Chaparro, B. and Bender, G.T. (2000), The world wide wait: Effects of delays on user performance, Proceedings of the IEA 2000/HFES 2000 Congress, 1-416-1-419.
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