Lost web usability study

9 Jan 2006 - 8:58am
9 years ago
1 reply
448 reads
Johan Sjostrand

Hey, I read an article/study a while back on the effiency of html text
links compared to image links.
Can't find it now..

I've looked on useit.com and uie.com which are my web usability bookmarks.

Do you know the article or other web usability study resources?


Johan Sjostrand


9 Jan 2006 - 9:48am
Jared M. Spool

At 08:58 AM 1/9/2006, Johan Sjostrand wrote:
>Hey, I read an article/study a while back on the effiency of html text
>links compared to image links.
>Can't find it now..

I know we've published it somewhere, but damned if I can find it now. :)

Years back, we compared successful clickstreams (clickstreams that resulted
in users accomplishing their goals, as observed in tons of usability tests)
with unsuccessful clickstreams (clickstreams where users abandoned their
goals before completing), looking for any clues that would help us predict
behaviors in one that we didn't see in the other.

One factor we looked for was whether the clickstreams contained image links
versus text links -- does one type of link show up more often in successful
clickstreams than the other.

Our finding was when users clicked in image links they were just as likely
to succeed or fail as when the clicked on text links. There was no
statistically-meaningful difference.

Our inference from this was a well-designed image link will work as well as
a well-designed text link. A poorly-designed image link will fail as often
as a poorly-designed text link.

Since image links are significantly harder to design "well", our
recommendation to clients has been to favor text links. They are more
efficient to create and manage and produce the same results.

We also concluded, from this same research, that there are three different
types of images that can appear on a page:

1) Content images -- images containing information within them that assist
or accomplish the user's goal.
2) Navigation images -- images containing scent to inform the user what
clicking will produce for them. (These may or may not be links -- they just
have to inform the user about links.)
3) Ornamental images -- images creating mood, displaying professionalism,
organizing the page (such as rules and fancy frames), and otherwise
enhancing the experience.

The quick summary was that we saw well-designed content images helped
shorten clickstreams, we saw well-design navigation images helped with
scent, and we couldn't see any advantage to the presence of ornamental
images, beyond pure layout assistance. (Inotherwords, no matter how we
measured, users beliefs about the site as professional, as fun, as
well-designed, was independent of the presence of these images. At the
time, it was this last finding that branded us as graphic-design-haters,
since we were dipping into the rice bowl of the visual design community.)

Of course, there's a lot more depth in this research -- I'm only
summarizing before I run to a meeting. But that's essentially what we
found. Hope this helps.

<mumbling>Now, where did we put those results?</mumbling>


Jared M. Spool, Founding Principal, User Interface Engineering
4 Lookout Lane, Unit 4d, Middleton, MA 01949
978 777-9123 jspool at uie.com http://www.uie.com
Blog: http://www.uie.com/brainsparks

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