The Usability Issues of Websites – How Long Do Users Stay on Web Pages

Recently, I read a few articles that the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g), a computer user interface and user experience consulting firm, founded in 1998 by Jakob Nielsen, Donald Norman and Bruce Tognazzini, wrote on the usability of websites.  What made these articles so interesting was that they focused on the usability issues of websites for teens, seniors, customers, etc.  Looking at how this kind of issue affected different groups of individuals was not only intriguing, but it was also rather beneficial in that it opened my eyes towards a new approach in regards to my website.

The article that most stood out to me was one that Jakob Nielson, a User Advocate and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group which he co-founded with Dr. Donald A. Norman (former VP of research at Apple Computer), wrote, titled How Long Do Users Stay on Web Pages.

At the beginning of the article, Nielson states that users often leave Web pages in 10-20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can hold people’s attention for much longer because visit-durations follow a negative Weibull distribution.  Neilson defines the term Weibull as a reliability-engineering concept that’s used to analyze the time-to-failure for components. The model’s hazard function indicates the probability that a component will fail at time t, given that it has worked fine up until time t.

Neilson than goes on to summarize that the perennial question, how long will users stay on a Web page before leaving, has always had the same answer- not very long!

The article states that as users rush through Web pages, they only really have time to read a quarter of the text on the pages they actually visit.  So, unless your writing is extraordinarily clear and focused, than little of what you say on your website will get through to customers.

However, while users are always in a hurry on the Web, the time they spend on individual page visits varies widely: sometimes people bounce away immediately, other times they linger for far longer than a minute.  Given this, the average is not the most fruitful way of analyzing user behaviors. Users are human beings — their behaviors are highly variable and are not captured fully by a single number.

Earlier this year, I was tasked with working with the Literacy Council of Fort Bend County, a non-profit organization, and determining a way that they could increase their volunteer numbers based on changes to their website.  I determined that due to a lack of interest and pages dedicated to volunteers, site visitors were not staying very long; therefore volunteers were quickly losing any interest they may have had.  To correct this, I developed a presentation, which was given in front of their Board of Directors, in which I explained to them what was wrong and what changes they should make to their website in order to increase site traffic.

I believe that Neilson sums up my very thoughts when he states that the first 10 seconds of the page visit are critical for users’ decision to stay or leave.  He goes on to mention that the probability of leaving is very high during these first few seconds because users are extremely skeptical, having suffered countless poorly designed Web pages in the past.  People know that most Web pages are useless, and they behave accordingly to avoid wasting more time than absolutely necessary on bad pages.

If the Web page survives this first — extremely harsh — 10-second judgment, users will look around a bit. However, they’re still highly likely to leave during the subsequent 20 seconds of their visit. Only after people have stayed on a page for about 30 seconds does the curve become relatively flat. People continue to leave every second, but at a much slower rate than during the first 30 seconds.

So, if you can convince users to stay on your page for half a minute, there’s a fair chance that they’ll stay much longer — often 2 minutes or more, which is an eternity on the Web.


Post Three: Website Critique and Reflection

Recently, I created a website for a class I am taking this semester, Publishing for the Web.  Truthfully, I never thought I had it in me to create such a thing, but I have to admit that I am very happy with the way things turned out.  In this blog post, I will be critiquing my website submission.

First and foremost, I will begin with the original proposal I submitted to my professor for approval.  I was tasked with coming up with an idea I could use for a website- one that was fresh and original or at least something that I felt someone else could benefit from.  Immediately, I thought of building a site that could benefit video gamers and guide them towards the completion of a particular video game.  At first though, I admit that I was nervous and stressed with going forward with creating a website.  I had no idea where to begin or even achieve the end result my vision included.  However, as of today, I learned a great deal more than I thought I would this semester!  After learning through both trial and error, and of course a lot of research, I was able to learn how to create a website practically from scratch.

 In my proposal, I originally suggested creating a full walkthrough that would walk players step by step through the main campaign.  However, that proved to be lengthy a bit to complex given my time constraints.  I then decided to focus on the parts of the game that are often neglected on other walkthrough sites- the achievements and collectables.  At first, I thought this might diminish my vision for the site due to the fact I was neglecting an integral part of the completion of a game.  Then I realized, that by doing so, I could focus more on creating the step-by-step instructions for achieving the many achievements/trophies the particular game I was focusing on has. 

After the proposal, I was prompted to then create a template of what I envisioned my website to look like.  I used the basics of another student’s template to create the template for my site.  Using those basics, I was able to build the site and ultimately have it look like I originally envisioned.  After trying different techniques and learning new ones, my site eventually evolved from its original format in the template to a creation that I am fully satisfied with.  The color and the text provide balance for the readers, as does the contrast.  Even the proximity of the text and pictures, as well as the banner and menu selections, come together to create a unique and visually fluid experience that proves to a fine addition to the World Wide Web.

Next came the first draft of my site, along with a peer review.  Besides a few changes, such the placement of the menu, padding increases and decreases, and edits to the font and font size, my site basically followed the same format.  Looking back, the changes I made were mostly done so because I felt the site needed improvement.  However, I do recall that it was during the peer review that it was recommended that I differentiate the top menu from the rest of the site.  Due to that recommendation, I added background color that set those selections apart from the rest of the content.

I also had the chance to give a fellow classmate a peer review.  It was a wonderful opportunity to see how well other students were progressing in the class.  By reviewing the site that I did, I noticed something that I wanted to implement into my own site.  The way the student had columns set up on both sides of the main content enthused me.  Regretfully, I did not have time to implement that particular design into my own creation.  Nonetheless, I am happy with the way my site turned out.

Finally, I would like to assess the final version of my site based on the criteria my professor will be using upon grading the website.  He will begin by looking at the correctness of my content.  As in whether or not my writing exhibits proper grammar, punctuation, diction (word choice), and sentence/paragraph structure.  He will also be looking to see if sources are used and if my images are cited and documented correctly.  This is the part that does not concern me.  I have been writing all my life and have come to learn what professors expect from my writing.  My words flow effortlessly almost like a poetic form of art.  The content is clear and precise.  Also, the actual word count far exceeds his minimum.  This fact alone should stand for something!

Next, he will be focusing on the overall design.  He will be making sure my assignment has visual appeal and follows the formatting guidelines.  I was tasked with having images on every page that reflected the material.  Going above and beyond, I was also told I had to have an embedded video to my site.  After much research, I was able to do just that.

To conclude this post, I want to make a reference to my previous post in which I reviewed an article on the “Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design.” I feel, in my opinion at least, that I managed to escape all of the mistakes he listed.  IN doing so, I made my site accessible to gamers where other sites of the same nature impede users visually and, often times, challenges tem to comprehend the material.

Blog Post 2: Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design

After reading “Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design,” by Jakob Nielsen, I have to say that I feel more informed and confident in my web design skills.  While I have not personally encountered some of the mistakes in web design the author mentioned, I can see how they might hinder a user.  This particular list was brilliantly thought out and executed, making it very informal and accessible.  The details the author provided for each ‘offense’ was not only immaculate, but they were also very beneficial in understanding what not to do on my own site.  As I mentioned before, I personally have not run into many of the mistakes he mentioned, but I believe that is only because many sites have fixed the issues that once hindered their users.  However, I do know of several sites that have either not corrected their ‘offenses’ or have ‘offenses’ that were not on the list.

The author starts off the list of mistakes with “Bad Search.”  I can most certainly see how this could be a major hindrance as many phrases or words are often times very difficult to spell.  Now, although I agree with the author when he mentioned that “search should be presented as a simple box, since that’s what users are looking for,” I must say that is not always case as what sometimes starts off simple, ends with complexity.  Take Google for example, although there search box is prominently displayed, their search results are far too chaotic to be much help most times.  The author touches on this issue when he states, “when search engines prioritize results purely on the basis of how many query terms they contain, rather than on each document’s importance.”

The fourth mistake on his list, “Non-scannable Text,” is one I am all too familiar with!  When the author wrote that, “a wall of text is deadly for an interactive experience. Intimidating. Boring. Painful to read,” I have to say that he hit the nail on the head.  One of the greatest examples that this brings to mind, is the video game walkthroughs fond on Gamefaqs.  Much of the texts found on the walkthroughs are written in long, block paragraphs with which the main headings are the same size and font as everything else.  A user can quickly become lost and may spend much more time than necessary trying to find the information that they are looking for.  I cam across a prime example of this when I was looking for a decent walkthrough for LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes.  What was so great about reading about this particular mistake, is this was exactly what I was trying to get away from on my web site.

Out of the entire list though, I would have to agree most with number 7 on the list, “Anything that Looks Like an Advertisement.”  The author states that, “selective attention is very powerful, and Web users have learned to stop paying attention to any ads that get in the way of their goal-driven navigation.”  He goes on to say that, “unfortunately, users also ignore legitimate design elements that look like prevalent forms of advertising. After all, when you ignore something, you don’t study it in detail to find out what it is.”  I have found, in my experience, that this mistake can be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, hindrance when I am searching on the web.  Sites such as Yahoo are a prime example of this.  I understand that running advertisements is how many of these sites make their money, but having too many advertisement or advertisements that get in your way of searching or reading is just plain unnecessary and, in my opinion, overkill.  Honestly, most times I go out of my way to avoid whatever product is being advertised due to the inconvenience they have caused me.

The author goes on to mention several more mistakes in web design, however, they did not have as much of an impact on me as the others did.  The other thing that I enjoyed about reading this list, was that not only did the author present mistakes to avoid, but he also went into detail of how to avoid them.  The information was very helpful and will most certainly be applied to my future endeavors win web design.

Website Proposal

            The video game industry is constantly expanding with the influx of new games and counsels.  In fact, video gaming is one of the fastest growing entertainment industries in the United States.  In 2010, the Entertainment Software Association released a study that examined the amount of income computer and video games added to the economy.  It was determined that in 2010 alone, the income that computer and video games added was $4.9 billion and there are some estimates that state that by 2015 the worldwide gaming industry could reach $70.1 billion.  Gaming itself has become the thing of tomorrow and gamers are becoming more competitive than ever.

            Gone are the simplistic games of yesterday and in their place are games that require skill, logic, and quite a bit of time to complete.  The linear approach to a game’s full completion in non-existent due to the numerous collectibles and trophies/achievements it takes to completely finish a game.  The players that seek to complete a game and unlock everything possible will spend countless hours searching online, scouring multiple websites just to figure out what step they are missing or where to look in order to finish the game.  Unfortunately, those who lack the time or skill will find this task daunting.  Statistically, it is estimated that Americans spend an average of 13 hours a week playing video games; no one has the time to spend searching the web for the answers they so desperately seek.

            That is why I would like to build a website that is dedicated to every aspect of completing a game.  I intend on having walkthroughs that will walk a player step by step to the end of the game, screen shots and videos that detail exact locations of collectibles, and what it is a player needs to do in order to obtain the many trophies/achievements every game has to unlock.  Not only that, but I will also have a page dedicated to reviews.  With so many games to choose from, it is hard to tell which games are worth not only your time, but your money as well.  This particular section will focus on reviews, both personal and professional, and what the game was rated.

            I understand that there are other sites out there dedicated to game walkthroughs, but what my site lacks in originality, it makes up for in conventionality.  The issue is that many of these sites are user based and are written purely on personal preference, rather than focusing on the game they are writing about.  Websites such as gameanyone, gamespot, and IGN, while they have the necessary information, often fall short of meeting their objective.  Players are often left with more questions then answers that result in them having to jump from web site to web site in search of an answer to their query.  I plan to end the frustration of searching by having all of that information readily available in one location.

            As an avid gamer myself, I bring years of experience.  I have played countless games on nearly every console.  The inspiration for this web site has come through countless searches I have done myself; all the while wishing there was a simpler solution to finding the answers needed to complete a game.  With my many years of expertise, I know exactly what other gamers want to see and can preemptively answer any questions they might already have.  My dedication, perseverance, and the patience I put forth in completing a game will justly serve in the creation of this web site.

            To start the web site off with, however, I would like to focus on the video game Max Payne 3.  This particular game has a lot to offer and will keep any gamer, novice or skilled, busy for hours.  Not only does Max Payne 3 have a compelling story, but it has countless collectibles and trophies/achievements to unlock.  Finding the locations of the collectables, as well as pulling off the correct sequence of events to unlock certain trophies/achievements, can prove to be quite a daunting task.  With my help though, this games completion can be just a click away.

Life is Too Short

We all live busy and hectic lives full of turmoil and complicated schedules.  Often times it is near impossible for us to find any room to breathe, or at the very least, a bit a peace in an otherwise chaotic situation. We keep telling ourselves that it’s just the hand that life has dealt us and that we will find the time we so deserve another day.  The thing is, life is too short and when it is put into perspective, we are finally able to realize that we need to find that peace and that collective calmness in our life sooner than later.  Let me put life and the very limited time it has to offer into perspective.

Imagine that you live to be 90 years old.  I think anyone, in this day and age, would be lucky to live that long.  As it is, most people make it to 70, maybe 80, while most do not even make it to see the ripe age of 50 or even 60.  However, lets for the sake of argument say that you live long enough to make it to be 90 years old. 

Now, multiply your 90 years by 365 days; you get 32,850 days.  That’s it, that is your entire life.  Less than 33,000 days.  Think that’s bad, it gets worse!  Subtract 3,650 days.  That’s the 10 years you don’t really account for much; four years at the beginning and about six at the end.

You are now left with 29,200 days.  Now, there are 24-hour days and we all have to sleep, some more than others, but the average is 8 hours a night.  So, say good bye to 1/3 of your existing 29,200 days.  You are now left with 19,466 days.  Less than 3,000 weeks- 2,708 to be exact.

So…what did you do this week?