Tom Chi  

Testing… 1, 2, 3

January 16th, 2004 by Tom Chi :: see related comic

In the spirit of no-budget usability, we’ve decided to treat our readers to a live usability test! This week we’ve revised our front page and we’d like to hear reader reactions to the changes. The old layout is available for comparison in our archives.

12 Responses to “Testing… 1, 2, 3”
Meri wrote:

Although the new design is a bit sleeker and definitely shiny, I prefer being able to see more of the posts. I hate that “Read the rest of this” link thing as it always makes me lose my train of thought, even if I bother to look at it. I’m prepared to read the entire article, so why should I have to page to do that? I HAVE A SCROLLMOUSE! ;-) (Much more a criticism of Movable Type than you guys, honest)

Love the comic this week, may stick it up in my cubicle :-)

Cheryl wrote:

I like the new design..hate to scroll EVEN with my scrollmouse! The design lets me decide what I want to click on to read, easy to follow. This is actually my first trip to your site, so the new design was my “first look”. I posted your site for our HCI class to view…we are doctoral students in an online program and I was led to your site from Don Norman’s! Keep us laughing, we need it!

Tomas Lindroth wrote:

Well, the first I see when I visit ok-cancel is the logo, fine. Then I recognise a very traditional navigation, very good. Then I see a comic-strip, awright, but when I think of it, maybe a bit of extra white space would help to make it stand out, but Iím not sure of that. Then we have the links from Google, that is the last thing I see without scrolling (Iím using a laptop, 1024*768) and I donít see the link “Ads by Google” which might make me thing that its actually part of your content. Ads should look like ads. For me, this increases the distrust for the site. Then we get to the food, the article and the discussion.

I think I like the “old” version better but if you take the ads and put them far out to the right where they donít disturb and put Active Threads below the two articles. Then maybeÖand since you took away Active Threads on the right and put it below you got some extra width. This opens up for the possibility to layout the to authors articles next to each other instead of one over the other. A better and more beautiful solution if you ask me…


Tom Chi wrote:

Tomas, those are very helpful comments. As to your last point, we stack articles chronologically because KC and I had planned to be able to post and counter-post articles to respond to each other.

The current design was built around the following visitor breakdown:

50% of visitors read the comic only
40% read comic and part or all of 1 article
10% read comic and all articles/updates

We wanted to support the comic-reading scenario first and foremost (since all visitors read the comic). This seems obvious, but plenty of popular webcomics don’t do this (penny-arcade, joyoftech, etc). Now an interesting thing about our readers is that half of them see the comic as the “meat” of the site, and the other half see the articles as the “meat” of the site. Some don’t mind scrolling and others hate scrolling.

We’ll definitely keep working at it (as I’m not totally enamoured with the current design), so keep the comments coming.

Oh, and the advertising comment was very helpful as well. We didn’t want our ads to be visually jarring, since that detracts, but you make a good point that people might mistake it for OK/C official content.

Elly wrote:

As someone who tends not to read all the articles I like the slimline version - I don’t have to scroll so far to see all the subject lines- although I did prefer the bigger versions of your avatars (but I am a pictures fan).

I’ll agree with Tomas about the Google Ads being in an annoying place tho - having them in the middle of your content means that if you’re going to read the articles you HAVE to scroll through them. Just because only half you visitors get further than the comic at the moment it doesn’t necessarily follow they will keep doing so if they have to filter out the ads first.

Jon wrote:

So has anyone actually clicked on your google ads?


david g wrote:

For a while a month or two ago, you were using CSS/Javascript for the “Continue to Full Article” link - loading the whole article and only displaying the summary until the link was clicked, which just expanded the article instead of redirecting to a new page. I’m curious as to why you got rid of this. I would assume that most of your readers are at work, on fast connections, so the page load time wouldn’t be much of an issue.

Other than that, I think I prefer the original layout. The google ads in the new version break up the page flow. Also, your top level links (home/about/archive/links) don’t have any left padding, which looks weird (this is in firebird 0.7).

Here’s a suggestion:
Everything up to right below the comic is fine, I prefer the new layout — less overhead. (with the exception of the padding I mentioned above).

right sidebar shows email subscribe, active threads, etc

Article headline spans two columns.
Column 1, larger face pic with posted/date underneath
Column 2, Article summary with DHTML “show all” style link.

Google ads right above page footer.

I know this buries the ads, but as a reader, I never click on ‘em anyway.

peter wrote:

I also don’t like the ad location. With my usual browser window it appears at the bottom of the screen, giving the impression that there’s no more to the site beyond the comic.

Paul Reinheimer wrote:

One continuing problem I have with your layout is the fixed width design. As a heavy computer user I sprung for the 19″ LCD panel display, at 1280x1024, your design is only using like %60 of the screen across the horizontal.

If I shrink the browser down to a smaller screen size I see the comic, and the google ad, rather than the alternate, comic, start of the article, and the google sidebar.

I think the text with the navigation buttons (first, previous, next, last)is pretty redundant. I think by now those icons do pretty well in recognition studies.

I also found the sidebar ad easier to distinguish from content than the horizontal one. It stood out easier, and was easier to flow past without getting distracted.

Rob wrote:

I always hate new designs, but I’m fairly ambivalent to this one. It doesn’t seem to be a major overhaul of the look-and-feel, so that’s quite good.

My big gripe is that I can’t tell the difference between KC’s expandable article and Tom’s single-paragraph by glancing at the screen. I think I’m expecting the expandable one to say “Read More …” or something at the end of a paragraph, rather than an extra link in the sub-navigation bit that says “Comments() | Return to Top”

(This was a problem with the old design as well)

As for ads - nobody reads them, nobody clicks them; but they don’t get in the way for me. Amusingly I got one in Dutch last week and the rest are all for companies in Germany and Sweden, but I suspect that’s because my company uses a Netherlands-based satellite ISP (I’m in UK).


Tom Chi wrote:

Well we have read all the user feedback and will be working on improving the site over the next few weeks.

A lot of people mentioned what they don’t like about our google ads. Some don’t want them at all, others want them moved to the extremities. Some thought they stuck out too much or too little.

KC and I debated and deliberated for a while about what to do. On one hand, we don’t like ads any more than the next guy. I personally almost never click on ads, although I have become used to them as a fixture on almost any site I visit (except Salon, where I pay for the subscription). On the other hand, the ads cover our hosting costs as well as giving us a little extra cash that can help us expand what we do.

Looking over other comic/humor sites, our ads are certainly not too bad on the scale of what’s out there. In addition to this, sometimes there are ads from people that we like: e.g. Adaptive Path, some quality conferences, etc — I don’t feel bad about endorsing those things.

Ultimately, we decided to keep the ads running as they are. While very few people click or even look at the ads, the few that do allow us to cover hosting and in this way, help to provide for a comic that we can all enjoy.

KC wrote:

I’ll address the other big item that came up: “Continue to Full Article” links. This problem goes back to the ever fun “scroll or no scroll?”. We did indeed use javascript to hide/expand the articles before. We stopped doing that for numerous reasons including cross browser support.

The main reason we like have the articles on their own pages is because it permits more of a feel of discussion with the comments intact. I personally think the popup comments makes the whole process quite disjointed.

Meri also mentions how she loses her context when she clicks on the read more links because one tends to be halfway through an article. We’re trying a new model now where we are doing a more magazine approach. Where possible and appropriate, rather than put the first paragraph or two of the article, we will put some sort of summary. So when you click “read >>”, you’re clicking with the intent to read an article, not to finish an article you’re already reading.

Hopefully, this addresses some people’s concerns! =)

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OK/Cancel is a comic strip collaboration co-written and co-illustrated by Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi. Our subject matter focuses on interfaces, good and bad and the people behind the industry of building interfaces - usability specialists, interaction designers, human-computer interaction (HCI) experts, industrial designers, etc. (Who Links Here) ?