Technorati, the web service for monitoring links between websites has redesigned. And it’s a nice evolution: there are some good things like the clear technical writing, the progress indicators (good to have as the site can chug a while at times) and some incremental improvements to results layouts as far as I can tell.
There are two things however which are getting “on my wick” to use a UK industry term.
The first one is the repositioning of the search text entry box up into the “banner blindness” zone [see Norman after Benway, Lane].
It’s getting on a bit now, but Michael L. Bernard’s study “Examining User Expectations of the Location of Web Objects” still gives good guideline, IMHO.
“most participants expected a website’s internal search engine to be generally centered at the upper half of a web page”
“most participants expected advertisements to be centered at the top of a web page. A smaller number expected it to be located at the bottom-center of the page. However, what may be most interesting is knowing where individuals did not expect advertisements to be located. That is, it is possible that advertisements may be more effective if they are placed in an area where they are generally not anticipated. This is because individuals may tend to ignore areas where they believe advertisements are typically placed. Supporting this argument, Benway (1998) found that banners located at the top of a web page tended to be ignored more often than banners located lower down on the page.”
Let’s overlay these grids on the new Technorati design:
Not an exact experiment for all sorts of reasons, the old netscape chrome in Bernard’s study for one; but I’ve tried to scale the Technorati page as best I can. As you can see it falls just within the ‘banner blind’ zone.
But unfortunately, it gets worse.
When we did the first couple of designs of the BBC search engine, we were always trying to push for the 1/3 down and centre position for the text box. The place that stands out from Bernard’s study and, yup – the place Google and Yahoo have their search input box – their “command line interface”.
But what we also found in our testing (done by the wonderful Flow Interactive…) was that if the search box was in that ‘sweet spot’ but was, for want of a better phrase, ‘too integrated to the page’ i.e. boxed in, or sounded by other design elements – the banner blindness kicked in again.
Technorati has done precisely this – compounding the banner blindness.
In good faith, here’s a stab at a solution that:
- Moves the tagline to the banner area
- Moves the search input box to the ‘sweet spot’
- surfaces some explanation on the baffling speech bubble that was previously next to the search input box BUT DID NOTHING
Okay – now I’ve got that out of the way, here’s the second and even more persnicketty criticism.
Whoever designed the logo would probably steal sheep*.
I know no-one who uses something as geeky as technorati will care about these things, and once technorati is not geeky it will be subsumed as invisible webservices sticking together our joyless smartmobbed eternal spotless blognow; but I just wanted to not only congratulate them on the design evolution, like the world and his weinberger have been with rather unqualified linkpraise; but offer some constructive criticism.
Really annoyingly anal-retentive – but hopefully constructive.
[* and yes, I know it's a misquote but tracked lowercase still looks bloody awful. My old boss at the BBC used to do it and it drove me spare. Maybe thats what sparked this whole rant... and not the search box placement at all...]