10 usability guidelines
Smashing magazine recently published an article titled "10 useful usability findings & guidelines." There's a lot of good information here for both core committers and themers.
Of the findings, I found myself disagreeing with only one - "Most users do not scroll." In my testing, I've found the opposite - so long as false bottoms are not present. To avoid false bottoms, make sure content or design elements run past the bottom of your browser. See illustration below.
Of particular interest is the section on user testing itself. While full blown labs provide lots of details like eye tracking results and recorded videos - you can learn a lot about the usefulness of a design by learning a few basics:
- Test unbiased users. You can not learn as much from users who already know how your designs work. Additionally, friends aren't always honest, so try to test people that you don't know. I find it helpful to tell my test participants that I'm not the designer (even though I am), I'm neutral, and they won't hurt my feelings if they speak negatively about the design.
- Don't instruct the user. This is the hardest part and takes some time to master. The best way to master it, is to just stay quiet. Let the user do the talking. Never answer their questions unless they are about to give up. Give them a task that doesn't have hints to the answer in it. For example, instead of stating the task as "create a main menu item", instead phrase it as "create a page and create a way for users to navigate it"
- Find patterns. You don't want to fix anomalies. Doing so may fix the problem for the tested user, but could result in new problems for other users.
- Users tend to wander and get unfocused in large tasks, so break them down.
If you follow these guidelines, test early and often, your results will be profound.