One of my highlights last year was Quora coming of age, it’s become a great resource for the knowledge many of us have locked in our heads.
Spreading the knowledge love I thought I’d highlight some of my Quora answers:
Why do most websites and mobile apps use sans-serif fonts?
It’s worth just discussing what Serifs are. Serifs are the details that sit at the ends of strokes on fonts. Their origins are in the print world where serifs aid readability of text (this is of course a much cut down history of the serif!).
There are a number of studies that look at readability of sans-serif fonts and they are easier to read at lower screen resolutions. As screen resolutions have increased we’ve seen not only more OS bundled serif fonts but increased usage.
The Alex Poole article that is linked in your question talks about low res grid based font design about 2/3s down. The fact we’ve come from low res screens means that sans-serif reliance is a hangover from that.
All the HCI literature focuses on text size being the major issue with readability.
With my Neuroscience hat there’s a lot to understand from the way the eye works. 94% of eye movement is based on saccades which are quick involuntary eye movements. When reading the eye moves backwards and forwards over the text – known as regressions. With harder to read text there are more regressions. I also use an eyetracker with the UX research I undertake.
The Russel et al experiment used an eye tracker to study, amongst other things, serif vs non-serif font to do this. They showed a 7% increase in readability with serifs (not statistically significant however), they don’t share the data for regressions sadly.
It’s worth saying they chose Helvetica and Georgia in their test. As any good typographer will tell you Georgia was designed for screen use. I’d say for this experiment to be valid, a number of different font faces should have been used. I wouldn’t take this as being a definitive study.
What can interactive design learn from the recent advances is the study of the mind?
There is a great overview of the psychology theories a UX person should be aware of here:
You could also look to buy this book which helps frame design tricks with psychology:
Universal Principles of Design: 100 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design:
How can we design an international website whilst considering cultural context of a country?
The first thing to understand is that designing websites for a different countries is not just about language. I worked for a few years with eBay and one of the things that is very clear is that UK and US English language is not the only difference between the two (I’m English by the way).
I’ve worked with other large blue chips on their website for different markets and the thing that is often important is the overall feeling associated with the design. I’ve heard South American users describe an American site as being very “yanky”. There was no specific thing that triggered this, just an overall feel. I’ve seen exactly the same in China and Japan as well as the Middle East. A design can ‘feel’ western.
My advice would be to if possible hire a native of that country to work with you. Ideally someone with some design expertise. This will give you a good start, an internal voice to help understand the motivations of the users from that country.
If you can’t hire an individual then look for a good user experience company/consultant based in that country. They will bring the local expertise. I’d say spend the money more on a UX agency than a standard design agency as you’ll get much more insight into user’s needs and motivations.
Have the agency conduct a benchmark UX study on competitors in that market. You’ll see how they meet the cultural needs of that country and get a strong idea about what is important for that country by what the competition are doing well and not so well.
Things to look for:
- Attitudes towards tone of voice
- Attitudes towards imagery
- Specific functionality users need and expect
- Gaps not currently filled by the competition
- Attitudes towards the brand
What is the first step in defining your online strategy?
The first and most logical step is to understand your users’ needs and if you are meeting these needs.
Conducting user research based around user need (rather than say looking for usability issues) is a good first step.
The next step is then to map those needs to your current offering. This can be both rewarding and disheartening. You may find you are meeting a sub set of those needs and missing some very basic ones. Fix the basic ones first.
There are a variety of ways you can map and then prioritise the user needs you are not meeting.
Indi Young has written a great book on mapping user needs to your current web offering:
There’s a nice article here describing the Kano Method which can help you to prioritise the user needs you are not meeting:
Also check out Lance Bettencourts book on service innovation for a process to ensure you are constantly meeting your customer needs:
Service Innovation: How to Go from Customer Needs to Breakthrough Services
You can see my full list of answers on Quora. If you’ve not already discovered Quora you should check it out.
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