Monday, August 2, 2010

Inadequate Photo Enlargement

According to the vote count, #10 should really be about pop-ups, but I’ve written a lot about them already (most recently when they were rated the #1 most hated advertising technique). Instead, I want to feature here a problem that got a bit fewer votes, but illustrates a deeper point.

One of the long-standing guidelines for e-commerce usability is to offer users the ability to enlarge product photos for a close-up view. Seeing a tiny detail or assessing a texture can give shoppers the confidence they need to place an order online.

It’s gratifying that most sites obey this guideline and offer zoom features, often denoted by a magnifying glass icon. But many sites implement the feature wrong.

The worst mistake is when a user clicks the “enlarge photo” button and the site simply displays the same photo. It’s always a mistake to offer no-ops that do nothing when clicked. Such a do-nothing links and buttons add clutter, waste time, and increase user confusion: What happened? Did I do something wrong? (An even more common no-op mistake is to have a link on the homepage that links to the homepage itself. This was #10 on the list of most violated homepage guidelines.)

Another mistake here that’s almost as bad is when sites let users enlarge photos, but only by a fraction. When users ask for a big photo, show them a big photo. It’s often best to offer an enlargement that fills up the most common screen size used by your customers (1024x768 for B2C sites, at the time of this writing). Other times, this is insufficient, and it’s better to offer a range of close-ups to give users the details they need without requiring them to scroll a too-large photo.
Yes, initial pages should use small photos to avoid looking fluffy. Yes, you want to be aware of download times and watch your page- weight budget. Even in this broadband age, slow response times were #15 on the full list of design mistakes. But, when users explicitly ask for larger pictures, they’re willing to wait for them to download — unless that wait produces a mid-sized photo that lacks the details they need to make a purchasing decision.

In this tutorial:
  1. Top Ten Web Design Mistakes
  2. Non-Standard Links
  3. Flash
  4. Content That's Not Written for the Web 
  5. Bad Search 
  6. Browser Incompatibility 
  7. Cumbersome Forms 
  8. No Contact Information or Other Company Info 
  9. Frozen Layouts with Fixed Page Widths 
  10. Inadequate Photo Enlargement

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