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Re: [agile-usability] Back button accounts for 40% of browser actions?

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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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