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Usability studies Re: Breadcrumbs

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@sidar.org>
Date: Thu, 05 Aug 2004 04:31:37 +0300
To: "yeliz yesilada" <yesilady@cs.man.ac.uk>, "w3c-wai-ig@w3.org" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <opsb8mmzb0w5l938@widsith.local>


"... Although participants were instructed not to use the search to access  
information or products, 61% used this method in Google ..."

What a surprise, on a site which is well-known precisely because it  
provides a good search facility! This particular exercise seems to me to  
defy common sense and what people actually do - what I would call poor  
experimental design, unless they wanted to know if people would actually  
follow counter-intuitive instructions in a usability test. Although I do  
use breadcrumb navigation I don't think I have ever done so on Google, and  
I would be surprised if anyone did. The other example they used seems much  
more obvious as a test of breadcrumb navigation.

In their follow up study, a number of people made use of breadcrumbs:

"... Of the participants that were exposed to a site with a breadcrumb  
trail (n=30), 40% used the breadcrumb five or more times to navigate on  
the site (Range = 5 - 31, n=14). ..."

This would suggest that despite a number of problems (many sites are not  
hierarchical, breadcrumbs are not always the intuitive way to get a task  
done, ...) they are something that people find useful. The fact that  
people who used them were not significantly faster or slower than those  
who didn't suggests that different people find different approaches to  
finding things obvious and comfortable. So it might be a good idea to  
include different types of search mechanisms. (Now where have I heard that  

There was some interesting work done by Inmaculada Fajardo Bravo and  
others at the University of the Basque Country on how prelingually deaf  
people search compared to others - it seems there might be important  
differences in the way the two groups maintain information for searching.  
(I have referred to this before, and a lot of the work is in Spanish,  
although it was published in english for the Human Comuter Interaction  
Conference in Crete in 2003, and is available as a PDF). I presume there  
are other studies in this area, and would consider that the results on a  
large scale are important for accessibility.

At the one end, David Poehlman says that as a blind user he finds  
breadcrumb trails annoying. I find them helpful, although my mental model  
of a site tends to be more weblike than the model of the site designer,  
who often thinks there is a natural hierarchical structure. I really think  
that usability studies that don't take disabled users into account, where  
there is evidence that they may have different circumstances leading to  
different results, can be bad for accessibility if we rely too heavily on  
their results. (Knowing something is better than guessing. But a little  
knowledge can be dangerous...)



On Wed, 04 Aug 2004 14:21:36 +0100, yeliz yesilada <yesilady@cs.man.ac.uk>  

> I think before we discuss how to represent breadcrumbs, we should first  
> discuss whether they are useful or not. The following two URLs present  
> results from a user evaluation which are quite interesting:
> http://psychology.wichita.edu/surl/usabilitynews/51/breadcrumb.htm
> http://psychology.wichita.edu/surl/usabilitynews/52/breadcrumb.htm
Charles McCathieNevile     charles@sidar.org
Fundación Sidar             http://www.sidar.org
Received on Wednesday, 4 August 2004 22:32:52 UTC

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