Site Map Usability - Review - WebReference Update - 020110 | WebReference

Site Map Usability - Review - WebReference Update - 020110

((((((((((((((((( WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER ))))))))))))))))) January 10, 2002

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This week we review the Nielsen Norman Group's latest study on Site Map Usability. Summarized on and available in PDF form (for $), this new report shows that most webmasters and users underutilize site maps. We review this new report and summarize their findings.

In other news O'Reilly's coming out with a book on running weblogs with Slashcode, a new Flash virus has been discovered (local flash files only), and Michigan's John Engler has signed a law creating a Cybercourt for corporate cases. *- link to us today *- newsletter home

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New this week on and the Web:

1. REVIEW: Site Map Usability 2. OTHER VOICES: * Interview - Derek Powazek on Design For Community * Usability - Out-sourced or In-house? * Running Weblogs with Slash 3. NET NEWS: * New Shockwave Virus Uncovered * Michigan Creates Cybercourt

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\--------------------------------------------------------------adv.-/ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. REVIEW: Site Map Usability

Jakob's been busy lately. The Nielsen Norman Group's latest study is on the subject of site maps. Available in abbreviated (free) or extended (pay) form, Site Map Usability tested 15 users on how they use and visualize the structure of ten information spaces, plus some sites they had recently visited. The results show that developers have much work to do.

A site map gives an overview of your site's structure, showing major areas and sections of your site. An example is our own site map at:

The researchers found that site maps are underutilized by webmasters and especially users. Nielsen found that less than 50% of sites surveyed use site maps, and only 27% of users surveyed turned to site maps when asked to learn about the site's structure. Users only seem to use site maps when all other options have been exhausted.

Once they've found the site map, many had difficulty using them. Error rates showed that long, complex, slow-loading, progressive display site maps fared the worst on user success and ratings. Short, simple, fast-loading, yet complete site maps fared the best in their survey.

In the longer report, Nielsen gives 30 design guidelines for site maps, here are some highlights:

1. Link name and placement ("Site Map," prominent, on every page) 2. Navigation (use normal links, avoid extra clicks, be complete) 3. Relationship of site map to the site (complement main navigation, make hierarchy clear, provide overview not relationships) 4. Design (cross-browser, visited colors, minimize graphics/scrolling/ load time, make it clean) 5. Content (include all areas, including About and Search, clarify links that take user to areas with their own structure) 6. Alphabetical Indices (specify what it includes, cross reference, provide context)

Some of the sites studied, like and had good success rates for users as they had simple site maps, while others like and had poor success rates as they used complex site maps (java-based or too long). Paradoxically when users were asked to diagram a site's structure, some of the easier to use site maps had lower recall. It was interesting to see the actual site diagrams users created.

It seems designers have some ways to go before they perfect their site maps. Even WebReference is not immune.

Designed to be fast loading and short in length this site map shows the major sections of WebReference, and sees heavy use on our usage logs. But there's always room for improvement. After reading Nielsen et al's 100+ page report, I made a minor addition to our own site map. We still call it "Sitemap" contrary to his recommendations. We think this will be the preferred form in the near future. Recommended. (Free) (PDF)

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\--------------------------------------------------------------adv.-/ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. OTHER VOICES: Interview - Derek Powazek on Design For Community, Usability - Out-sourced or In-house?, Running Weblogs with Slash

* Interview - Derek Powazek on Design For Community

In this interview, he talks about his book, "Design For Community," what the Internet means to him, and how it's enriched his own life., Jan. 9, 2002

* Usability - Out-sourced or In-house?

Should usability work be provided by external consultancies or provided in-house? Tom Farrell investigates., Jan. 9, 2002

* Running Weblogs with Slash

O'Reilly's coming out with a new book on running weblogs with Slashcode. O', Feb. 2002 (estimate)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3. NET NEWS: New Shockwave Virus Uncovered, Michigan Creates Cybercourt

* New Shockwave Virus Uncovered

Flash files run locally can do some mischief, but over the Web we're still safe, for now.,,10_952151,00.html, Jan. 9, 2002

* Michigan Creates Cybercourt

Michigan's Governor John Engler signed a bill Wednesday that would create a virtual state court where lawyers could file briefs and make appearances by teleconference., Jan. 9, 2002

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That's it for this week, see you next time.

Andrew King Newsletter Editor, aking at internet dot com

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