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Back button accounts for 40% of browser actions?

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  • Jason Yip
    I ve been reading Steve Krug s Don t Make Me Think and he references a 1995 paper on browser behaviour that indicates 40.6% of browser actions are the Back
    Message 1 of 7 , Sep 3, 2006
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      I've been reading Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think and he references a
      1995 paper on browser behaviour that indicates 40.6% of browser
      actions are the Back button.

      The paper seems a bit old though (browser was X/Mosaic) and I'm
      wondering if anyone knows of more current data confirming this result?
    • Tim Wright
      Andy Cockburn from Canterbury University has done a bit of work on the Back button, so he might have some more recent references.
      Message 2 of 7 , Sep 3, 2006
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        Andy Cockburn from Canterbury University has done a bit of work on the Back button, so he might have some more recent references.

        http://www.cosc.canterbury.ac.nz/andrew.cockburn/web_navigation.html

        Tim

        (disclaimer: he was my Ph.D. supervisor)

        On 9/4/06, Jason Yip <j.c.yip@... > wrote:

        I've been reading Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think and he references a
        1995 paper on browser behaviour that indicates 40.6% of browser
        actions are the Back button.

        The paper seems a bit old though (browser was X/Mosaic) and I'm
        wondering if anyone knows of more current data confirming this result?




        --
        Kei te kōrero tiki au. Kei te kōrero tiki koe. Ka kōrero tiki tāua. Kōrero ai tiki tāua.
      • Ron Jeffries
        Hello Jason, thanks for your ideas. On Sunday, September 3, 2006, at ... If you don t count scrolling down as an action, that sounds about right for me, except
        Message 3 of 7 , Sep 4, 2006
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          Hello Jason, thanks for your ideas. On Sunday, September 3, 2006, at
          7:48:06 PM, you wrote:

          > I've been reading Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think and he references a
          > 1995 paper on browser behaviour that indicates 40.6% of browser
          > actions are the Back button.

          > The paper seems a bit old though (browser was X/Mosaic) and I'm
          > wondering if anyone knows of more current data confirming this result?

          If you don't count scrolling down as an action, that sounds about
          right for me, except that I've developed a new habit with Firefox,
          which is to click a link to open in a new tab, read the page, then
          kill it, which pops back to the previous page without all the
          irritating interaction. Not that that's actually "data". ;->

          Ron Jeffries
          www.XProgramming.com
          How do I know what I think until I hear what I say? -- E M Forster
        • Jared M. Spool
          ... Statistics like this are meaningless without context. It s like saying 99% of all clicks are with the left button, so why do we have a right mouse button?
          Message 4 of 7 , Sep 4, 2006
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            At 07:48 PM 9/3/2006, Jason Yip wrote:
            >I've been reading Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think and he references a
            >1995 paper on browser behaviour that indicates 40.6% of browser
            >actions are the Back button.
            >
            >The paper seems a bit old though (browser was X/Mosaic) and I'm
            >wondering if anyone knows of more current data confirming this result?

            Statistics like this are meaningless without context. It's like saying 99%
            of all clicks are with the left button, so why do we have a right mouse button?

            With regards to the back button, you have to split things up:

            First, are you talking about a transactional flow or searching for
            information. The two have distinctly different patterns. For the former,
            back button usage traditionally implies lack of a clear "undo" function
            (and may result in some sort of error state for either the client browser
            or the server).

            For information searching, there are some sites where users use the back
            button far more than others. Interestingly, in our studies, the sites where
            users use the back button less have substantially higher task success rates.

            I don't have my hands on the paper you're referring to, but if I remember
            the study, it was just a complete log of all browser actions, independent
            of what the user was trying to accomplish. I haven't found much use for
            statistics like that. They don't really tell us what to do differently.

            Jared

            Jared M. Spool, Founding Principal, User Interface Engineering
            510 Turnpike Street, Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
            978 327-5561 jspool@... http://www.uie.com
            Blog: http://www.uie.com/brainsparks
          • Cory Foy
            ... I have to agree with Ron that the most common action I do is a middle-click to open the link in a new tab. The handy thing is that it doesn t leave the
            Message 5 of 7 , Sep 4, 2006
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              Jason Yip wrote:
              > I've been reading Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think and he references a
              > 1995 paper on browser behaviour that indicates 40.6% of browser
              > actions are the Back button.

              I have to agree with Ron that the most common action I do is a
              middle-click to open the link in a new tab. The handy thing is that it
              doesn't leave the current page, so I can open up several links and then
              look at them when I'm done.

              In fact, I rarely use the back button because of that, and get very
              annoyed when I can't middle-click a link (for example, javascript
              navigation links).

              --
              Cory Foy
              http://www.cornetdesign.com
            • Jared M. Spool
              ... Historically, self reported behavioral data, such as this, is exceptionally unreliable. I m willing to bet, if we were to actually log your browser
              Message 6 of 7 , Sep 4, 2006
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                At 01:28 PM 9/4/2006, Cory Foy wrote:
                >I have to agree with Ron that the most common action I do is a
                >middle-click to open the link in a new tab. The handy thing is that it
                >doesn't leave the current page, so I can open up several links and then
                >look at them when I'm done.

                Historically, self reported behavioral data, such as this, is exceptionally
                unreliable. I'm willing to bet, if we were to actually log your browser
                actions, we'd find this statement to be false. Just a hunch. What one
                perceives they do and what they actually do are often two very different
                things.

                >In fact, I rarely use the back button because of that, and get very
                >annoyed when I can't middle-click a link (for example, javascript
                >navigation links).

                With all due respect, I'm thinking you're at least two standard deviations
                off the mean. ;-)

                Jared


                Jared M. Spool, Founding Principal, User Interface Engineering
                510 Turnpike Street, Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
                978 327-5561 jspool@... http://www.uie.com
                Blog: http://www.uie.com/brainsparks
              • Cory Foy
                ... Yes. In fact, I d be open to such a logging thing. I wonder how difficult it would be. I do know that I often close windows many times more than I go back,
                Message 7 of 7 , Sep 4, 2006
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                  Jared M. Spool wrote:
                  > Historically, self reported behavioral data, such as this, is exceptionally
                  > unreliable. I'm willing to bet, if we were to actually log your browser
                  > actions, we'd find this statement to be false. Just a hunch. What one
                  > perceives they do and what they actually do are often two very different
                  > things.

                  Yes. In fact, I'd be open to such a logging thing. I wonder how
                  difficult it would be.

                  I do know that I often close windows many times more than I go back, for
                  the simple reason that if there is any indication that I'd want to go
                  back to where I was, I open it in a new tab.

                  > With all due respect, I'm thinking you're at least two standard deviations
                  > off the mean. ;-)

                  This is something else I think we both agree on. I offered the example
                  because, while it is important to consider the back button (especially
                  in today's AJAXified world of web apps), don't forget those of us who
                  want to not have to use the back button at all.

                  --
                  Cory Foy
                  http://www.cornetdesign.com
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