The eyes have it - a lament for related links

I was recently fortunate to be invited to observe a session which used some seriously impressive eye-tracking kit to reinforce conventional user journey testing. The study compared two proposed designs for a clients’ site. It was a fascinating exercise.

Watching the subjects intuit their way around the alternative formats on both desktop and mobile platforms, and listening to their comments as they went, got me thinking about trends in corporate sites and the user testing that we are assured validates them. 

Several users mentioned that they would like to see a left hand menu and some related links to lead them through the content… remember those? Once classic components of any solid navigation system, they seem to have fallen foul of ‘responsive design’, or rather the corporate site trends that it has inspired.

As David Bowen wrote in his latest commentary article, agencies continue to assure us that their designs – so beautiful on their big screens, reasonably effective on mobile but often down right frustrating on a laptop – score well in usability tests. Which begs the question: what are they testing them against? Are they comparing trendy big banner, deep scroll layouts with a more conventional design featuring left hand menus and related links? Or big banner layout vs slightly different big banner layout?

I know which I’d put my money on… 

- Mali Perdeaux