Web Design Factors That Influence User Behavior (Part 2)

This following is an excerpt from my final paper for IMC-635 Visual Information Design. You can read the entire paper here.

Employing design styles that make text easily scannable will also assist users in finding relevant information, hopefully helping them decide to stay longer on the website. Examples are highlighting keywords, using meaningful sub-headings and bulleted lists, limiting paragraphs to one idea, using the inverted pyramid (starting with the conclusion), and cutting the conventional word count down by half. (Nielsen, 1997)

Another great guideline I discovered was the more thoughtful use of photography. Jakob Nielsen in “Photos as Web Content” tells us that: “Our eyetracking studies have documented a dramatic gap in how users approach website images. Some types of pictures are completely ignored. This is typically the case for big feel-good images that are purely decorative. Other types of pictures are treated as important content and scrutinized. Photos of products and real people (as opposed to stock photos of models) often fall into this category” (Nielsen, 2010).

Going back to cognitive strain — care should be taken in designing website navigation. According to Jennifer Cardello, “some navigation implementations risk pushing users into a state of cognitive strain which lessens the likelihood of them taking desirable actions. The following examples are from independent studies conducted in the past 5 years. To their credit, each of these sites have since removed the strain-inducing navigation attributes.

1. Thin, horizontal, roll-over activated menus: Testing users’ fine motor control (and patience). Keurig’s 2009 website is an example:

Keurig's 2009 Website
Keurig’s 2009 Website, Retrieved from http://www.nngroup.com/articles/navigation-cognitive-strain/

2. Unfamiliar labels: Forcing translation of your creative nomenclature as shown below on Dale Carnegie’s 2010 website.

Dale Carnegie's 2010 Website
Dale Carnegie’s 2010 Website, Retrieved from http://www.nngroup.com/articles/navigation-cognitive-strain/

3. Redundant links on routing pages: Increasing the perceived number of choices — demonstrated below on Cornell University’s 2010 website” (Cardello, 2013).

Cornell University's 2010 Website
Cornell University’s 2010 Website, Retrieved from http://www.nngroup.com/articles/navigation-cognitive-strain/

“Recognizing and replacing design elements like these that require too much effort from your users can offer tremendous bottom-line value” (Cardello, 2013).

Here’s a great example of why we should be mindful of using familiar features to minimize cognitive strain: “Bucknell University caused a stir with its unconventional responsive redesign, but at a high cost to usability, as shown in tests with students and parents. Bucknell isn’t alone in its desire to stand out and create a modern look and feel. Many websites in all kinds of industries do this, hoping to stick out among the crowd and impress their users. Unfortunately, the reality is that too often, resources are spent on making the site look great or creating an innovative widget, and usability is neglected until the very end of development.” (Sherwin, 2014).  The redesigned homepage is shown below.

Bucknell University’s 2014 Website, Retrieved from http://www.nngroup.com/articles/breaking-web-conventions

“Some points to consider:

  • In the top line, what does the round icon between The Everything Directory and the search box symbolize? What will you get if you click it?
  • Also on that top line, what will you get when click Start Exploring?
  • In the left margin, what will you get if you click on one of the dates?
  • What information is on the other side of the link “Bucknell is under the sea” within the big photo? (Did you recognize this as a link and not just a caption?)” (Sherwin, 2014).

This is excerpt #2 from my final paper for IMC-635 Visual Information Design. There is much more! You can read the entire paper here or follow this blog.


3 thoughts on “Web Design Factors That Influence User Behavior (Part 2)

  1. Great insight on visual design and I loved the examples you provided. With all the great ideas and techniques for improved design elements, why do you think some companies continue to do it all wrong? Some website are just plain awful.


    1. In response to your question… I think people too often neglect to do their homework when it comes to their websites. In my experience, many clients think they know what they want on their websites, and this may have nothing to do with what they need to put on their websites. Content strategy is being overlooked — even by some of the largest companies. In my opinion, this stems from decisions being made by those who have no knowledge of today’s online marketing world.


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