Looking for finding around URLs

28 Aug 2008 - 5:05am
6 years ago
9 replies
505 reads
Brian Mclaughlin
2008

Hello,
Can someone point me to research finding around whether users pay attention to a URL changes?

Quick background info:
I am doing work for a company and there is resistance to having the URL change to much. For example you are on the www.blue.com site and you click on a link that changes the URL to www.red.blue.com.

Keep in mind I am talking about the URL only. What is on the two pages (www.blue.com and www.red.blue.com) would be enough alike that it should not be considered in the question/reseach.

My stance is that a typical user does not pay attention to the URL after they have landing on the site they were looking for (if even then).

Unfortunately a very high level stake holder is convinced that if we have the URL change from the parent site's URL it will negatively impact the user to the point that they abandon what they are doing.

The only way I can convince this person otherwise is with research and data.

Thanks,
Brian

Comments

28 Aug 2008 - 7:43am
Chauncey Wilson
2007

This is purely personal, no research, but I have noticed this on a few
occasions and with the proliferation of malicious web sites that might
hijack one's data entry find it disconcerting. In a few cases, I
quickly shut down the page when it produced a different URL that was
similar, but odd. There have been those PayPal and eBay emails where
the links sorta look like those companies, but are, in fact, fake
sites.

I also have serious multi-level security on my home system so I'm
probably a ways out on the suspicion curve.

I do think that it is legitimate issue. I would worry more about this
if there was any personal data entry involved or a request for
sensitive information. If the URL was to an informational site, my
level of diligence is not that great.

There is an edited book titled "Security and Usability" that was
mentioned in a recent post. It might be worth looking through that.
The other source might be organizations that focus on Web security.
Are there any white papers on the McAfee site since this is an issue,
for example?

Thanks,

Chauncey

On Thu, Aug 28, 2008 at 6:05 AM, McLaughlin Designs
<info at bmclaughlindesigns.com> wrote:
> Hello,
> Can someone point me to research finding around whether users pay attention to a URL changes?
>
> Quick background info:
> I am doing work for a company and there is resistance to having the URL change to much. For example you are on the www.blue.com site and you click on a link that changes the URL to www.red.blue.com.
>
> Keep in mind I am talking about the URL only. What is on the two pages (www.blue.com and www.red.blue.com) would be enough alike that it should not be considered in the question/reseach.
>
> My stance is that a typical user does not pay attention to the URL after they have landing on the site they were looking for (if even then).
>
> Unfortunately a very high level stake holder is convinced that if we have the URL change from the parent site's URL it will negatively impact the user to the point that they abandon what they are doing.
>
> The only way I can convince this person otherwise is with research and data.
>
> Thanks,
> Brian
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
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28 Aug 2008 - 7:51am
Paul Eisen
2007

Brian asked:
"Can someone point me to research finding around whether users pay attention to a URL changes?"

Can you describe the users? If they are not particularly web savvy, it may be worth pursuing your gut feeling on this. I don't know specifically of any research looking at user's awareness of URL's or use of URL's for orientation, but I can suggest you dig into the available research in two areas:
1) Eye-tracking data for web sites. Eye-tracking heat maps of web pages may demonstrate how much interest most users have in the URL.
2) Research on web-site identity and user orientation. This research should point to cues including the logo, page title, the breadcrumbs, the major sections including the one showing with selected state, the background and general visual treatment, and the URL.

Older research in this area summarized by HFI: http://www.humanfactors.com/downloads/aug99.asp. HFI probably has some newer and relevant stuff also summarized in their Technical Material.

Good luck! Let us know what you find.

~
Paul Eisen
Principal User Experience Architect
tandemseven

28 Aug 2008 - 10:07am
Justin Davis
2008

I'd like to hear more about why the URL needs to change. It seems to me
that this could possibly represent a larger, structural problem (on the
business process/corporate side) that is manifesting itself as a need to
change a URL. If there are internal branding/hierarchy issues that are
causing you to feel as if the URL needs to change, those may need to
addressed before the execution on the web happens.

I think there are probably plenty of ways to get around the URL changing,
unless you see a clear business need to do so. How come you're interested
in it changing?

Justin Davis

On Thu, Aug 28, 2008 at 5:05 AM, McLaughlin Designs <
info at bmclaughlindesigns.com> wrote:

> Hello,
> Can someone point me to research finding around whether users pay attention
> to a URL changes?
>
> Quick background info:
> I am doing work for a company and there is resistance to having the URL
> change to much. For example you are on the www.blue.com site and you click
> on a link that changes the URL to www.red.blue.com.
>
> Keep in mind I am talking about the URL only. What is on the two pages (
> www.blue.com and www.red.blue.com) would be enough alike that it should
> not be considered in the question/reseach.
>
> My stance is that a typical user does not pay attention to the URL after
> they have landing on the site they were looking for (if even then).
>
> Unfortunately a very high level stake holder is convinced that if we have
> the URL change from the parent site's URL it will negatively impact the user
> to the point that they abandon what they are doing.
>
> The only way I can convince this person otherwise is with research and
> data.
>
> Thanks,
> Brian
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

28 Aug 2008 - 12:39pm
Brian Mclaughlin
2008

First let me say - thanks for the responses.

However I can not go into detail as to what I am working on.

I can tell you that the audience is everybody that owns a computer, has email, and can get on things thing the young folks are calling the internet:)

We are providing a third party service to very large commercial company's sites.

We basically have brought things down to either using iframes or having the common man/woman be sent into our controlled environment to do something. Everybody on the team is in agreement that we want to have them come into our environment. But there is one major stake holder who wants the iframe so that the URL still reads that the user is still "100%" on the original site.

We are talking about originating sites that are large enough that even their URLs change depending on where you go in them.

As we all know there is a point in time where numbers and research are what is needed. And that is what I am after.

28 Aug 2008 - 7:24am
Marielle Winarto
2008

Although the average user barely pays attention to the url, I would -
depending on the website, content, and visitors in question - be a bit
cautious with changing the url. As a countermeasure to phishing
attacks, messages have been spread like "Do not trust content from a
website if the url is different", "Only proceed if the url starts with
...".

If the url changes from www.blue.com to www.blue.com/red it is clear
that the user is still on the right domain, but I'm not sure whether
people would recognize www.red.blue.com as a subdomain of blue.com.

Of course it depends on the character of the website if this is an
issue. For a bank or other financial services I would try not to mess
with the url, for other domains it might be unimportant.

Regards,

Marielle

28 Aug 2008 - 1:03pm
Santiago Bustelo
2010

> On Thu, Aug 28, 2008 at 5:05 AM, Brian ( McLaughlin Designs ) wrote:
>
>> Unfortunately a very high level stake holder is convinced that if
>> we have
>> the URL change from the parent site's URL it will negatively impact
>> the user
>> to the point that they abandon what they are doing.
>>
>> The only way I can convince this person otherwise is with research
>> and
>> data.
>

Hi Brian,

The problem is the inversion of "the burden of proof".

Is actually the stake holder the one who sould present research and
data to back up his / her opinion.
In absence of data and research, your opinion as an expert in the
field should be the last word.

[ rant ]
In a perfect world, we designers would get the respect we deserve, and
won't have to face this kind of situations. Unfortunately we still
have to earn such respect. I would certainly and gladly welcome any
insights, URLs, etc on that regard.
[/ rant ]

--
Santiago Bustelo // icograma
Buenos Aires, Argentina

28 Aug 2008 - 1:14pm
Brian Mclaughlin
2008

"The problem is the inversion of "the burden of proof". "

Agreed - however this stakeholder is the CEO.

So the burden of proof is on me.

28 Aug 2008 - 5:40pm
Santiago Bustelo
2010

Seems like we are debating on clueless CEOs lately!

I feel a great disturbance in the force, as arising this issue shows
a worrying confusion from the CEO in the first place. If people is
going to access the website not from a mailed link, but from a link
on the associate's site, only paranoids won't trust the URL.
Otherwise paypal, 2checkout and google -just to name a few- would be
out of business. Case dismissed, next!

There is actually extensive literature against your CEO's loved
iframes. I hope said literature, along with an estimation about how
that and similar approaches will lead to increased complexity, costs
and severe issues, could be convincing enough.

I sadly doubt you will stop banging your head on the wall, even if
you get your point across on this one. Micromanagement is impermeable
to forecasts, analysis and rational argumentation. This kind of people
only gets it, if ever, when things actually, finally and irreversibly,
fail.

May the force, and all the patience and luck you can gather, be with
you.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=32459

28 Aug 2008 - 6:21pm
Brian Mclaughlin
2008

You are right and part of our case building has pointing out how many payment/shopping cart system currently switch URLs on people. Both big and small payment/shopping systems as not all of them have the trust factor of a PayPal or Google.

Paul Eisen has helped my searching by pointing me in the direction of eye tracking studies.

I will dig up "studies" on iframes as well so that it is not just us calling out the issues.

All in a day's work...

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