CX Insights

The ABC of Usability – Part 9

5 min read

The latest installment in our monthly list of User Experience terms.

Each month, we are adding new terms to our existing glossary of Usability and UX definitions; terms we deem useful, interesting or – hopefully – a mixture of the two!

Discover new terms, learn more of the ones you thought you knew and find out interesting, little known, details.

October’s five new terms are as follows:

Flat Design

Flat design has taken the design world by storm these past couple of years. Increasing in traction and culminating in the recent release of Apple’s iOS 7. It seems difficult to avoid bumping into the characteristic colorful tiles at some point, when browsing the internet or using one of the numerous devices we now have.

Flat Design has its roots in 1950s Switzerland. The ‘Swiss style’ design philosophy emphasizing minimizing, cleanliness and content organisation. Its fundamentals consisting of a grid system for aligning content and San-Serif fonts (ie. Helvetica – Latin for ‘Switzerland’).

What we see now with Flat Design are these principles being applied in the Digital world. The removal of the ‘bells and whistles’, leaving us only what is important: Color, Shape and Content. A presentation method which is effective at being both minimalist and beautiful.

Windows can take the claim of bringing it to the mainstream. Their Metro interface being introduced first to Windows 7 Mobile and then Xbox 360 – its minimalism ideal for compact devices. Windows 8 brought Flat Design to even greater attention. Initially met with mixed messages, it seems – a year on – that the world has wholly embraced this design method.

A/B Testing

A/B testing is an extremely simple, yet effective, method for testing changes to a web page, and for determining how those changes affect the conversion rate An easy way of looking into it is as follows: You have two versions of your homepage: version A, and version B. As visitors come to your homepage, you choose to display version A to 50% of your visitors; whilst showing the other 50% version B.

Through observing these visits to each version of the homepage, a little bit of analysis (usually using analytics software) should show you the performance rates for each version; and thus the most successful option.

A/B Testing increases in usefulness the more hits site has, due to the increased amount of data received. Even if the tiniest of changes increases conversion by 1% over a pool of 500,000 visitors, it is worth doing. Google is well known for using this method extensively.


Navigation, used for thousands of years by explorers and casual wanderers alike to reach their goals. From using the stars to navigate oceans, to a simple contents page at the beginning of a textbook: Good navigation is essential in many situations.

In UX, navigation describes how a user travels through a website or software in order to reach their goals. The easier it is for the user to navigate, the faster they will find what they are looking for.

Poor navigation systems will undoubtedly lead to the frustration of your visitors and damaged conversion rates. Visitors want to find what they are looking for as quickly as possible, and if one site can’t lead them to it, there are a plethora of others offering the same service.

When optimizing their navigation, websites often use subtle tricks to lead the user to where they need them to be. An ecommerce site, for example, may aim to make navigation towards its profit generating areas much more visible than others.

Infinite Scrolling

Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram. Aside from being a collection of the largest social networks around, they have one thing in common: They all prime examples of Infinite Scrolling. Why?

With the vast amount of data contained in each, designers need a technique to manage page load times. Left unchecked, loading thousands of tweets at one time would be disastrous to the user experience – not to mention the monotony of endlessly hitting ‘next page’.

In comes Infinite scrolling. The basic functionality is that, as the user scrolls through the content, more content is loaded automatically. This creates a seamless – ‘infinite’ – list of data. Infinite scrolling ensures the user can be shown as much data as possible. Whilst also ensuring this data is provided in bitesize chunks, easy for whatever device being used to handle.

Surprisingly though, the internet giant that is Google has yet to implement this technique onto their main search results pages – though it be found on their image results. This is due to an interesting HCI concept, where providing a simple end point ensures users do not get disoriented by the vast amounts of data being thrown at them. More can be read on the subject here

5 Second test

The rule of thumb is that people make their mind up about a website within the first 5 seconds of first visiting. This gives the designer 5 quick seconds to show the user why they should stay, why this is the site for them.

In comes the 5 second test. This usability test is as simple as it sounds; Let a participant view a screenshot for 5 seconds, then ask them to recall which features they remember. This allows the designer to create easily identifiable call to actions and visuals. Capturing the visitor’s attention as quickly as possible.

Rather than merely asking the participant to recall what they see, software may be used to return more detailed results. Eye tracking software or our own Usabilla Survey are examples of such tools.

Oliver McGough
Passionate UX Designer and Marketer.