Having recently acquired a shiny new (and very expensive) eyetracker we were keen to understand how best to use it. So we sent one of our staff off on a suitable training course. Our chap came back with lots of good new approaches and techniques but what surprised me was that no mention had been made of what I see as the single biggest benefit.
Graham Charlton's interesting article for eConsultancy (How retailers make January sales easier for customers, posted 5th January 2011) made us think how different user behaviour can be during sale times. Users are more inclined to be in browse mode, browsing the sale items with no specific requirements in mind, but keen to hunt down a bargain. Conversely, they may have pre-researched their sales requirements and be very specific in their search - looking for a specific electrical item at a discount or a particular dress for a special occasion for example. They therefore want to be able to be as broad or as specific as they choose when filtering sale products.
It is noticeable when observing user testing sessions, that some users are reluctant to enter text in search boxes if it already contains some text e.g. the word 'Search'. Our advice is that, like Google, the search box should be empty. However, we are often told by clients, with words in their search boxes, that they have been advised this is necessary to comply with accessibility guidelines.
Regular watchers of usability testing sessions will be very aware that users rarely appear to look on the right hand side of the page. Often sites will put information that is key to a user journey on the right of the page that gets missed. On a site we tested recently what was, in effect, the main navigation was on the right hand side of the page and users struggled to find it.