Usability: study by Roger Hudson suggest Facebook-style sites is makin us stoopid

Well, no. But changing how “users” use our websites:

He proposes that if, as more and more people start using the Interwebs, that their main use is social media pages, that they’re basically being trained on the interfaces of such sites which is different from the “general” web interface we build into our websites (usually we do this with the assumption that the interface will be “intuitive” or “familiar” to most visitors, because we’re following web “conventions”. Right?).

He points out secondly that the behaviour of searching for information is generally by users typing a search term (though also whole URLs) into Google. I would think this confusion is made even greater by more and more browsers combining the address bar with the search bar (Chrome for example has a does-everything bar at top). As a developer I find a single does-all bar to be great, but I had already been trained with the idea that the URL bar is for whole URLs (and if incomplete, would give me a “I dunno what this address is” message from the browser) and that searching took place after navigating to a search engine. While you can still do this, it’s no longer default on most places and people new to Interwebs are learning a different interface (and missing some of what’s-what in the process).

As Hudson says:

On the other hand, I would think users are maybe writing better search queries than they did 10 years ago… though with SEO and gaming the system involved, maybe not so much.

His conclusion includes:

… and that this may impact WCAG2’s guideline 2.4 re navigation, and other WCAG guidelines.

Since some of us really care to know and learn “basic usability and accessibility principles” , we wouldn’t want to learn the wrong ones. If they are changing out from under us, we need to be aware of that and make adjustments.

[FONT=verdana]Excuse my ignorance, but what’s an “interweb”?


Off Topic:

Interweb: is a sarcastic term for the internet. :wink:

What kinds of adjustments do you envisage?

:rolleyes: The main flaw in this study is that it was conducted on Australians, who are, on the whole, unusually stoopid. :shifty:

[font=verdana]I think this is similar to the age-old discussion about the Eternal September. It isn’t that Facebook is making people any more stupid, but that more stupid people are now using the internet. People who, previously, probably wouldn’t have successfully engaged with the web at all, and would have struggled to build up the kind of mental models that were needed to navigate the web 10 years ago – or would at best have had a handful of sites bookmarked and just used those all the time – these people are now avid users of Facebook and maybe one or two other similar sites. But because the web is now a much bigger part of everyday life, that is spurring them on to try to explore further than they would previously have done.

Yes, people often go back to Google rather than using site navigation. That is a learned behaviour because so many sites have such crap navigation and internal search facilities. After a few times of getting burned by trying to use a site’s own process and then being unable to find what you’re looking for easily, people fall back on returning to Google and getting the right page instantly … and then it becomes a habit. I do it myself … although I do usually try to get there directly unless I know it’s a fruitless task. I see on my own site logs the same people coming to the site fresh from Google three or four times in the same session – and this is on a site with pretty good navigation, where they could easily have found their way from one page to another if they’d bothered to spend a second or two thinking about it. But people don’t, because they have become habituated into using Google for everything. And for me, that’s a much bigger problem than the fact that some new surfers don’t understand all that much outside the Facebook paradigm.

And I use Google too, even when I know where I want to be. When I started typing this post, I was pretty sure I knew what the URL for Wikipedia’s page on Eternal September would be, but I still googled it to get the URL to copy and paste into this post. Why? Because it’s quicker to do that than to type the URL with all its awkward punctuation and making sure you spell everything right – Google doesn’t care if I type ‘Etrenal Septmeber’, it will still take me to where I want to go, but if I give a link to (or type in) [noparse]‘htpp://’[/noparse] then I won’t have a lot of luck.

Ultimately, there comes a point where you can go no lower. Whether it’s the structure of your site or the style of your writing, you can’t simplify complex ideas into something that everybody can understand without losing essential information.[/font]

As they must, as more and more companies, governments and non-profits try to cut costs by preventing people from calling on the phone or writing letters. Old people must use internet banking more and more as branches close. When I was a greasy welfare recipient, I had to do almost everything via the web (those without jobs usually being those with much less access to a computer, this struck me as extra strange).
So it’s mostly that people who are new to the internet and computers are not getting the same training we got.

I’m doing this with jQuery right now… unless I know what topic a function belongs under, the menu on the left is a little useless. Typing “jquery .post()” (which becomes jquery post but oh well) into DuckDuckGo brings me that very page as the very first result.

For Eternal September, I would have typed “!w Eternal September” into my uni-address-search-bar-thingie. DDG shortcuts have made me even lazier than I used to be.

Roger envisions reading WCAG guidelines with SpaceWaste users in mind. That is, changing the words used in main navigation, and offering more navigation hints that explain where other pages are in relation to the site or the site’s home/main page, for example.

You know what I say: if your grandma can figure your site out, you musta done good.

Likewise I have Opera shortcut searches for Google, Google Maps, Amazon, Wikipedia, Yahoo, National Rail, Streetmap, weather and others that I do subconsciously or have forgotten about … but when I posted that (and right now) I’m at work and stuck with IE8 :frowning:

Your work sounds like it sucks. 100 MONKEYS… yeah Zeldman just had a thing about sites built by 100 MONKEYS and that just sounded cool.







let’s autotune it

Did we get training? The first time I looked at the web, I saw sites with About and Home pages. I wasn’t confused about what these links meant.

I guess there are always going to be more dumb ways to die. :rolleyes:

You sure? I think people forget what it like like… the first time they used a computer mouse. The first few times they clicked blue underlined hyperlinks. The first time they saw certain things that later became “convention”.

Yeah, we got trained. By websites. When they didn’t do what we expected, we changed our behaviour and tried different things until they did (unless they never did, in which case, we left because they were poorly built, lawlz).

I guess not … but I did leave it a long time before I got onto the web. I had a brief encounter with it in 1996—when there wasn’t a whole lot online that was of interest, except the olympics—then forgot all about it for about 4 or 5 years until I got a web connection at home. By that time, I guess it had fairly well established its conventions, and I don’t remember being confused by anything at that stage. I was very familiar with the basics of computers, though (mice and all that). It was only as I started to learn how to build websites (many years later again) that I really thought much about site structure.

I don’t know whether it’s a cause or an effect, but there seems to be a drive to take the technology out of the web user interface: less buttons and icons, less browser, less things to learn, more intuitive functionality in the content itself.

Is this an acknowledgement that people will never really grasp the language of browser menus and tools? Get rid of the user interface because the user can’t face it? Who needs the web when you have Facebook?

Or does it indicate an increasing sophistication of web technology, so that the awareness of “web” and “technology” are diminished in favour of the presentation of functionalised content? Which still leads to “Who needs the web when you have Facebook?”

I made up “functionalised”. So sue me.

It’s the problem that people no longer care about learning, they don’t want to think, they just want the computer to know what they want and conjure it up. I work with people who are not stupid by any means, and they’ve been using computers for years, but so many of them just can’t be bothered to work anything out. As soon as they come to something that isn’t immediately obvious - even if it’s something I’ve showed them loads of times before - they just ask me how to do it, and if I’m not there or if I’m too busy they just sulk.

Sorry if you think I am suggesting Facebook is making people stupid. What I was trying to do was report on changes in web behaviour I had observed by very similar audience type over a five year period. I was particulary interested in the potential impact this might have for people who have lower-level reading skills and/or internet experiences. My reference to WCAG Guideline 2.4 is because this guideline, and the Success Criteria it contains, seem to be built around the notion that people will navigate though sites to find information, and as such may not fully meet the needs of other information retrival mechanisms in common use today. It seems to me we should always be willing to discuss of the possibility that they way people use technologies change over time, and in my opinion a failure to consider this possibility is rather stupid. As to basic principles, for usability I don’t think you can go past Steve Krug’s “don’t make me think”, and for accessibility the W3C “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0”.

Not really, that was more me having fun with the title, which I refuted in the first sentence.

Yes, and that we as web developers may need to change how we build things if our general audience is changing how they do and view things.

Great article and I’d love to see more such studies.

Interesting read. People are always going to be influenced by dominant and popular user interfaces, whether it’s an operating system, or a website. I used to design a few custom video playback systems for the web, and clients would want all sorts of funky interfaces, but youtube’s ubiquity means that any I do now all now have sensible and recognisable layout and buttons.

Off Topic:

I’ve recently and annoyingly been influenced by the blackberry playbook’s cunning edge swipe gestures for multi tasking, and now keep on subconciously doing them on the ipad and android phone unsuccessfully