All About Website Usability Blog – Holly Phillips

Can layout alone influence satisfaction?
November 7, 2009, 4:24 am
Filed under: visual design

In customer usability studies we often watch customers struggle to find what they’re looking for, to figure out the navigation, or to wade through irrelevant search results.  But understanding the impact of page layout on customer behavior and satisfaction is tough to do unless you focus specifically on that and conduct task-based usability testing using a few different page layout designs.

Chaparro, Shaikh, and Baker conducted a study to help quantify the impact of page layout on usability.  Their finding: 

“Layout on a web page (whitespace and and advanced layout of headers, indentation, and figures) may not measurably influence performance, but it does influence satisfaction.” Chaparro, Shaikh, & Baker

Could this be one of those elusive design characteristics that help explain why customers who can easily find their desired information or complete their desired task still only rate their satisfaction as 8 out fo 10?  We’ve seen in our studies that satisfaction is strongly correlated with task completion up to a point.  After all, if you can’t complete your task, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll be very satisfied.  But that correlation tends to break down at the high-end; perfectly successful visitors with nothing but positive comments often don’t give us the maximum satisfaction ratings.  There’s clearly something else that goes into their mental evaluation in addition to successful task completion.  Improving page layout may help crack this nut.


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