How Users Read on the Web

Content creators and curators, take note: people just don’t read everything you write. What to do? The NN Group (Jakob Nielsen’s company) suggests reorienting the way you write web pages. Most people scan your website, so make your website easy to scan. Hit the link below for more practical advice.

They don’t.
People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page , picking out individual words and sentences. In research on how people read websites we found that 79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across.
The Resource section is a curated section of this website containing information and articles I find useful to my process. You may find them useful as well.

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Measuring the Usability of Reading on the Web

Confused about how to translate something like “usability” into a number? The Nielsen/Norman Group has an article to help you do just that. It is meant as a comparison tool, but may be useful to give a baseline of an existing site in order to spot problems. The system is based on five components: task time, errors, memory, time to recall site structure, and subjective satisfaction.

Hit the link below to learn more about how to get a handle on measuring your website’s usability.

The Resource section is a curated section of this website containing information and articles I find useful to my process. You may find them useful as well.

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Writing tasks to test web usability


Writing tasks was one of the most difficult parts in learning how to do usability testing. Although I got a little direction for Steve Krug’s examples, translating those into practical applications proved challenging. Here are a few of the things I learned along the way. Call it the do’s and don’ts of usability testing.
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Building On The MeasureLogical Breakpoints For Your Responsive Design

Responsive Design is taking the web design world by storm. However, determining where and how many breakpoints to have is tricky. Instead of trying to design for hundreds of screen sizes, this article posits introducing breakpoints based on text line length.

The Resource section is a curated section of this website containing information and articles I find useful to my process. You may find them useful as well.

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Why Google Analytics is Good for America

Recently, my friend Andy Hughes pointed me to a blog post by Tristan Denyer describing why he is turning off Google Analytics. It all kicked off with this tweet by Jordan Moore.

Mr. Moore describes that his small blog has no need for Google Analytics, that keeping it had the potential of destroying the honesty of his writing. I admire that. Mr. Moore recognized that his blog’s goal was not based in tracking and optimizing his traffic.

Tristan Denyer followed not too long after with the same conclusion.

Again, I admire his decision. However, I can’t agree with his reasons, at least not all of them. Following are Mr. Denyer’s reasons he is getting rid of Google Analytics and my reaction.

It slows down page load

Well, yes, it does. However, the amount of bandwidth it sucks is barely anything. Get rid of the social share buttons, they’re a far bigger issue.

Some people don’t want to be tracked

Again, he is correct, although it is worth noting that GA does not track personally identifiable data. In fact, if you do, they have the right to terminate your account.

Tracking can be good for visitors. If the website owner uses it in a way to improve their experience, everyone benefits.

The data is overwhelming and highly subjective (if not suspect)

It seems this is where we differ the most. Firstly, the point of analytics is not to show 100% accuracy, but to show trends. Also, improving SEO is not the only reason to use GA, it helps you track your websites goals, figure out where people are getting lost, provide insight into types of content that your current audience is looking for, and what channels are helping you achieve those goals best.

Mr. Denyer’s example of a local bar that will never glance at it’s Google Analytics is a good point, though. There is no way a client like that would use that information. There’s a good reason for that, it’s not their job. The bar owner, as a small business owner, probably hired his website done because he does not have the expertise or desire to do it himself. It is our job to use that data to improve their website and help them accomplish their goals. Business goals are website goals that are measured by Google Analytics.

The reward of ‘hitting the target’

This particular section has mostly to do with SEO and landing on the front page of Google’s results. There definitely are benefits, as Mr. Denyer stated, but for some sites (such as his) that didn’t matter. That’s fine, but search is only one channel for achieving your website’s goals.

It’s more for Google’s sake than my own

I understand this, and perhaps they could use my own data against me, but if we’re not concerned with SEO as above, then why worry about this?

The other point Mr. Denyer illuminates here is this, “And seriously, how much usage data do we need to help Google collect? I could understand if they were paying me to help collect it, but they don’t.”

However, Google is paying you by providing a premium product for no money. And not only that, they continue to improve the product releasing new versions frequently.

The data can affect your goals

I definitely agree. This is something you must watch for. When used correctly, though, the data can shed light on your goals rather than outshining them.

Mr. Denyer talks about how, in the past, he used analytics to support the inclusion of tutorials and free downloads because they brought in more traffic. This was a problem because it didn’t actually bring in more profit. It seems to me that GA should have helped see that problem and suggest solutions about what activities were making profit. Another option may have been to tweak how the free downloads or tutorials worked to permit better marketing touchpoints going forward.


This isn’t really a problem with Google Analytics, as it’s primary use is to analyze trends in data. However, it may be a good time to look in to Cloud Flare or something similar.

At the close

Thanks to Mr. Moore and Mr. Denyer, I do see good reasons to rid yourself of the venerable Google Analytics. Among these are dangers such as letting the data unduly affect your writing and simply not needing it on some websites. However, I cannot agree with all the reasons put forth. I simply believe that Google Analytics has too much to offer to switch off. Keeping it on, I can make my website more useful to my visitors.

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Do one thing

Car traveling west on CA-76

I was driving south on I-5 and a pickup just ahead and to my left signaled they wanted in my lane. I slowed down to let them in and initially, they too hit the brakes expecting to go behind me. I continued to slow, they figured it out and sped up to get over. And that’s when I knew what I was going to make my new year’s resolution.

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Useful hourly reporting for Google Analytics

Several years ago, the Google Analytics team introduced a new feature allowing inquiring researchers to see a few metrics by hour of the day. It gave a much clearer picture of when visitors made time in their busy lives to read a websites’ content. It always helped me to estimate good times to publish new content or when to send an email. Sadly, the new version of Google Analytics breaks up the date range into hours showing the selected metric for each and every one. Here’s how to see what hour of day is most important to you and your website.

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User testing as easy as rocket surgery

Steve Krug wrote a book in 2000 that would change the way I thought about building websites going forward. “Don’t Make Me Think” inspired a generation of web workers to begin thinking unselfishly about the sites we designed and Krug’s brand of DIY usability tests was how we would finally be able to figure out what our visitors actually needed. No longer would we need to rely (fully) on what the highest paid person thought about our users or how we wanted to make something work. For the first time we were able to see inside our users’ heads. It put an end to what Krug calls “religious debates,” those meetings where every one has an idea of what they want, but no clear understanding of what is really needed.

Of course, in practice, this process happened very slowly. But once people saw the value of testing, the culture changed. I see a growing role for usability testing where I’m at and am about to attend a workshop with Steve Krug to discover a strategy for implementing regular user testing into our workflow. What I will come away with is the knowledge to coalesce the learnings conducting these tests previously to more effectively gather this knowledge in future testing. I’m also going to walk away with a concrete understanding of how to take the data and turn it into effective change. Most of all, I’ll be able to get out of myself and understand a bit more about what my visitors actually need.

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Sporting new features like “Story comments via Facebook” and (not to spoil it) the #1 reason of “Three words: It’s just better,” the Omaha World Herald is launching its long overdue website overhaul tomorrow. Looking through the top 10 reasons to check out their new website it seems to boil down to two main reasons: there are many sections without much visibility and they need to figure out how to get some Facebook magic in there.

I’ll withhold judgement until tomorrow, but from the list, I don’t see many user generate problems, just company problems pulled from their analytic tool of choice.

via Coming Tuesday: A new look for –

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