Tag Archives: usability

Is IE8 search box usable?

Have you ever tried to understand how IE8 behaves when searching? As a non-IE user I am used to going to the top right box, type a word and receive instantly the page with the search results. I work mostly with Mozilla and sometimes with Opera and Chrome (when I’m in a hurry and I need a page to load fast, I admit). So for me, as a user, the entire search process is transparent. I don’t even pay much attention to what search engine each of them uses. I know they are going to return some results and I’m always in a hurry.

So after so many years of NOT using Internet Explore I got myself searching something while testing a website. And, as usual, I type the word I need and in return I receive a page that is not a search result page. And I finally pay attention to what is happening to me.

Search box in multiple browsers

In all browsers the search box is pretty much the same. We’ve been trained to search it in the top right corner, to type the word and press enter. Here’s how it looks.

IE8 search box

IE8 search box

Opera search box

Opera default search

Mozilla search box

Mozilla default search box

Chrome search box

Chrome search box

I expect them all to behave the same. IE8 apparently thinks the other way around, cause if you search for a word thinking that the box will search for it, you’ll receive a screen like this one:

IE8 search result page

How IE8 searches

Next you realize that IE8 doesn’t search by default, you have to make it search by choosing a search engine. All browsers search using Google’s engine, but if you want another one you can choose, no problem here. But if you’re in a hurry and don’t care much about the search engine, you still receive some results. IE8 added an extra step so now in order to receive the results you have to take 2 steps instead of one:choose the engine, then search.

IE search box dropdown
IE8 engines alternatives

How other browsers behave – they let you choose too

Mozilla search box dropdown

Opera search box dropdown

Chrome doesn’t even bother, it won’t display alternatives at all.

What is IE8 thinking?

I wonder why did they choose to follow these steps and if they realize that this is a usability issue – in the search engines war the fact that the user has to bother and take one extra step (in this case 2 instead of 1 is double the effort) might mean some of them won’t bother at all. And if they want to promote Bing or Yahoo, why didn’t they just put these ones as default?

Why is “Welcome” so important?

I’m seeing a lot of websites lately that open their homepage with a big “Welcome” title. The beauty of this title is that usually somebody decides it is so important that it also deserves to be a H1 heading.

From the marketing-girl’s perspective – or the PR-guy if you want – probably welcoming your visitors with such a nice and polite heading is the good thing to do. And when a programmer like me decides your welcome does not worth the H1 and lowers its importancy to H3 (because I’m not allowed to delete it completely) then the war inside the company is about to begin.

When you have nothing else to say

Some people think the most important in your site is YOU. Your company’s name, slogan, discoveries, news…Sometimes the logo is also H1 – sometimes not. And this is where you stop. Not everybody agrees, but all agree that you have to have a H1.

Next in the line is H2. You can use it in any way you want but bear in mind that Google is listening and this H2 will mean a lot for SEO. And now we go back to “Welcome”.

What is Google learning from you when the most important message in your page is “welcome”?

Welcome message in a non existent site

Forget Google, what about information?

From the Information Architecture point of view, the fact that you open your website with a “Welcome” means that you have nothing better to say.

When I see it I think that this company has nothing interesting to write on the index page. The headings help me understand what is the company doing and how it can help me (because this is why I am here, I’m not surfing the net to waste time), so the index page is the most important page in the entire website.

The way it is designed, the content and most of all the headings should make me understand the company’s purpose and activity and convince me NOT to leave the website at once.

Nobody reads, everyone scans

Why are the headings so important? Besides the race to win Google’s heart, it’s all about money! When you have a boring index page with boring headings and insipid content, the huge Flash in the middle of the page won’t help you stop loosing your visitors. If the visitors come, get bored/scared/indiferent then they go somewhere else. And they take the wallet with them.

In case you don’t give a….flower on a web specialist’s opinion about your website then this argument should win. The analitycs were invented with a purpose. Knowing how many vistors come and go, how much time they spend on your website and why are they leaving after 30 seconds it’s suppose to make you win or at least stop loosing money. If you’re even more insensitive than that, think about them as wallets. The visitor goes = the money goes.

Does this make you more interested in the Web Architect’s opinion?

Check the Spanish version of this post:
Porqué “Binevenida” es tan importante?

Google Chrome translate – usability issue?

Being a lazy person, I always wanted to have a translate feature in my broswer so I won’t have to google-translate everything. When it finally was included in the Chrome browser I discovered that at first it was annoying and that the Options button in the right is not the best choice they could have made from the usability point of view.


I develop websites for foreign clients. At first I am not interested in reading their website cause I just want to take a look at the layout, at the menu, at the images and to asses the general look and feel of the website. So I browse the website and with every new page I check the same message pops-up.
Chrome translate message
chrome options

I don’t want to read it in English so:

1. I can ignore the message, but it keeps coming back
2. I can click on NOPE, but it keeps coming back. WHYYY? 🙁
3. I can choose NEVER to translate German, but what if I might need that in the future?
4. I might choose to never translate this site, but what if I will need it someday?

After a while…

I would like to asses the website from the Information Architecture content – I want to see how the content is formulated, how it is displayed and how can it be improved in order to make the users task of reading as easy as possible. So I need to translate it – and I use the button Translate. While I’m browsing the website the top message still appears telling me with each new page I click that it has been translated. While browsing this keeps showing and I wonder if it is really necessary for it to distract my attention with that message all the time – I can see it has been translated.

Chrome message

What options do I have now?

chrome options

I might not always want it to translate pages grom German to English. I don’t think these new options are ok. As well as I don’t think the ones before were ok. Something is missing. Some sort of “not now, please” button.

I think I want something like

What I propose

Check the Spanish version of this post:
Traducción de Google Chrome – problema de usabilidad?

The usability of the language redirect

Anyone thinks the language redirect that some companies provide is simply annoying sometimes?

Take for example the three IT giants that probably did some usability testing involving the language redirect.


knows even better than I do that I want to go on Google.es and that I want it to search in the Spanish pages.
Google screenshot
It’s true that you can then convince it to go to your desired page, google.com, but it takes some knowledge to make it remeber that for a while. Cause sometimes it forgets and it will take you to google.es again…


does the same thing as Google and it takes you to yahoo.es while displaying all the info that you might need in Spanish. It mixes the results of an English query with the results of Spanish websites and you can choose after that what you would like to read.
Yahoo page
Yahoo search result


is a bit wiser. It knows that you might know better where are you going and it diplays a splash screen. Behind it, the page in Spanish is already loaded 🙂
MSN screenshot

I wonder how travelers think about this and if they feel frustrated about handling such small but annoying problems. IF they consider them as problems.

Check the Spanish version of this post:
La usabilidad de la redirección por lenguaje

A website is not a kilogram of apples

I have recently discovered an interesting blog and while reading one of its posts I firmly believed Julio, the author, read my mind. I translated it with his help and with the help of Alex & Gillian Meldrum and here it is for you to read and enjoy.

When quoting for work, we seem to hear the same refrain – “expensive”. Why?

When you take your car to the garage to be repaired, do you automatically question the cost and suggest that the mechanic’s hourly rate is too high? Probably not. Yet we hear it routinely. Why should construction of a website be any different? Is there any real suggestion that the level of skill involved in creating websites is in any way less valuable than that of a mechanic? Or any other skilled trade or profession for that matter?

And even if your business model is geared to offer the client genuine value for the level of expertise provided, it’s still the same complaint. Somehow, clients are able to find lower quotes and still think that this will deliver the same result (“their website”) and therefore that we are “expensive”. And they are not afraid to tell us this.

There are a number of reasons why this is happening. One of them is that the market is not yet ready to really understand what constitutes a ‘good’ website. There is a difference between being able to find what you need on the web (as a user) and understanding the architecture that the site needs to guide users to it. Many clients don’t really understand what they need so they leap into the unknown and keep their fingers crossed. After all, when people are competing for your work, they will always tell you that they can deliver what you need – and they will usually tell you what you want to hear (as opposed to what you need to hear).

Let’s think about this in a wider context. If you need a very good brain surgeon, how do you reach one? How would you choose one? You can’t exactly look in Yellow Pages, under “good surgeons”! Other doctors would recommend one based on reputation and experience in their field. After all, most of us wouldn’t know where to start with a list of criteria that makes a good brain surgeon. But what if you still had to choose from a shortlist? Where would you start? What if none of the candidates is suitable? How can YOU evaluate them, when THEY are the experts?

Inexperienced clients tend to rely either on mainly subjective criteria (such as the impression given by the salesman/developer and whether their face fits) or on a very common objective one: the price.

If the quotes for the “same job” are 6.000 Euros and 1.500 Euros respectively, what quote would you choose? The majority of clients would instinctively say “the 1500 Euros one”.

But if you think about it for a moment, is it ever really possible to get more for less?

Clients are rightly wary, but if somebody offers a product for a fraction of the price, they somehow still believe that the final product will be essentially the same. But here’s the crunch: all website are not equal. And if we continue the car analogy, if somebody offers you a brand new top of the range Mercedes for next to nothing, do you really think that it’s a genuine bargain? Or do you suspect that there must be something amiss?

The truth is that, at the moment, websites seem to be bought much like apples at the supermarket. You can go to the budget supermarket, where they’ll be cheaper, because you know there won’t be much difference between them. Or if there is, it is probably so subtle that it is not really worth the effort of going to a different shop. After all, it’s only apples.

But a website is not a kilogram of apples. It’s not simple merchandise. A website is a custom development and the difference is always in the team working on it. The experience, knowledge, formation, seriousness and commitment of the team is key. The final product and its quality will be the fruit of this custom development and the results obtained from it will be directly proportional to this quality.

This is what the client needs to appreciate. If the product or the strategy of the client is not correctly established, or if the website is not usable, accessible from different platforms or if the code is not standard and semantic (and hence indexable by search engines) then they are wasting their money.

Suddenly the 1500 Euros “bargain” will be seen for what it is – a false economy. Perhaps the client will recognize that they have missed an opportunity to promote their business, to outshine their competition and to have a website that does what they need. Sooner or later they may need to develop a new website from scratch. This involves investing further time, energy and of course money.

Unfortunately, the majority of projects seem to fall into this category and that’s why a lot of companies go through various websites, always looking for “the final version”. Browsing a few random websites is enough to see how much wasted money and how many lost business opportunities there are.

Now that’s what I call “expensive”.

Other interesting posts can be found on Julios blogs: Stanque and Realidad Aparte. I strongly recommend those who understand Spanish language to take a look at Padres y empleadores. Clientes y usuarios.