Article summaries

Every bullet point below links to an article

Skim for an idea that interests you and click on it to read more.

(Many of the articles follow an inverted pyramid writing structure, which means that my summaries sometimes include no more information than the article’s first paragraph, but in every case I have read through the entire article so that my summary will be accurate and not omit anything essential.)


Lists of principles
Lists of example sites

Visual Flow

Eye tracking
How Users Read

Content Strategy


Resources to create color schemes:

Information Architecture


Mobile Navigation



Accessibility and adaptability


Interaction Design



User Behavior

Gaining trust

User Research

Usability studies

Wireframing and Prototyping

Business of UX

Design Methodologies

Design Studios
Design Thinking



Mobile implementation

Research papers

(Research papers have greater depth and subtlety than other articles but lack the depth of books so I’ve decided to categorize them separately. Once I get enough of them, I’ll move them to their own page.)

Mobile Usage and Usability

A Large Scale Study of Wireless Search Behavior: Google Mobile Search (2006) by Maryam Kamvar, and Shumeet Baluja.

  • Query length is similar between mobile and desktop (including laptop) contexts, but mobile queries take longer and the number of queries per session is lower.
  • All kinds of queries are performed on both desktop and laptop platforms, but there are differences in the categories of most frequent queries. The greater prevalence of adult-category queries on mobile suggests that people feel their mobile browsing is more personal and private than desktop browsing.

Understanding Mobile Web and Mobile Search Use in Today’s Dynamic Mobile Landscape (2011) by Karen Church and Nuria Olivier

  • Mobile devices are increasingly used in stationary contexts.
  • This diary study looks at the motivations and contexts in which searches are performed rather than just trying to infer information from the logs.
  • Queries performed in mobile contexts are more likely to be considered urgent.
  • Mobile devices are commonly used in intimate social settings.

Depth and Breadth Away from the Desktop: The Optimal Information Hierarchy for Mobile Use. (2006) by Arjan Geven, Reinhard Sefelin, and Manfred Tscheligi

  • Some earlier research (on desktops) shows that users perform better in terms of both time, errors, and perceived complexity on broader hierarchies, and some shows that there is a tradeoff between breadth and depth, with the best hierarchies at neither extreme.
  • The negative impact of having to scroll to see the current options is greater than the negative impact of a narrower hierarchy, meaning that users prefer narrower hierarchies on smaller screens.

Information Needs and Practices of Active Mobile Internet Users (2009) by Toni Heimonen

  • Mobile web search is more common when users’ information needs are hedonic and is the primary search method to address trivia queries.
  • Direct access of websites is more common when users’ information needs are pragmatic and is the primary search method to address transportation needs.
  • About two thirds of “mobile” access occurs in a stationary location.
  • Expert mobile users (or at least users with flat-rate data plans) may be more likely to address information needs when they occur.

Improving Web Search on Small Screen Devices (2003) by Matt Jones, George Buchanan, and Harold Thimbleby

  • The most common cause of failure to find the information sought in a Google search was screen size, particularly the inability of the small screen to show the large pages linked to in the search results.
  • The authors suggest that for small screens, search results could be presented in more effective ways, possibly (1) creating a hierarchy of results organized by topic that users can click through until they refine the results to the topic they’re looking for, or (2) showing keywords for the search results instead of titles and URLs.

Usability Guidelines for Designing Mobile Learning Portals (2006) by Daniel Su Kuen Seong

  • This article proposes a set of best practices in evaluating mobile usability for a learning portal, including reducing scrolling (to increase reading speed) and reducing page changes (to decrease perceived complexity).
  • The best mobile interface will present only the most pertinent information to increase speed and decrease complexity.

Mobile Web Browsing: Usability Stud (2007) by Sujan Shrestha

  • Persistent navigation shouldn’t take up too much of the screen on a mobile device or else users may not realize that the page has changed when they click on a link.
  • Forms present a significant barrier to mobile task completion.
  • Omitting on the mobile version of a site something that was present on the desktop version can confuse users if they look for it.

A Framework for Understanding Mobile Internet Motivations and Behaviors (2008) by Carol A. Taylor, Ona Anicello, Scott Somohano, Nancy Samuels, Lori Whitaker, and Judith A. Ramey.

  • The authors observed eight categories of mobile behaviors, which fall into three larger categories: info seeking(status checking, browsing, information gathering, fact checking), action support(in-the-moment, planning), and info exchange (transaction, communication).
  • They found that the motivations for internet use fell into the two utilitarian categories of awareness and time management and the four hedonic categories of curiosity, diversion, social connection, and (rarely) social avoidance. The most common motivation was awareness, generally satisfied by checking a status.

Characterizing Web Use on Smartphones (2012) by Chad Tossell, Philip Kortum, Ahmad Rahmati, Clayton Shepard, and Lin Zhong

  • There are two types of mobile users, those who prefer to search with a browser and those who prefer to use the native apps as a form of bookmark.
  • Browsers provided sporadic access to a wide variety of resources, whereas a set of native apps were used more regularly. Many other native apps were only used once and were often uninstalled.
  • Use of native apps increases over time relative to browser search. Web designers should promote the installation of native app versions of their sites to increase the probability of revisits.
  • “Compared to PCs, browsers on smartphones are accessed less frequently, for shorter durations, and to visit fewer pages” (2771).

Planning, Apps, and the High-end Smartphone: Exploring the Landscape of Modern Cross-device Reaccess (2011) by Elizabeth Bales, Timothy Sohn, and Vidya Setlur

  • Phone-to-desktop and desktop-to-phone re-access of content occurs with comparable frequency.
  • Common reasons for reaccess on phone after intial access on desktop were location, time, wanting to show something to friends, and mobility barriers. Common reasons for reaccess on a computer after inital access on phone were a technical barrier or splitting up tasks (such as accessing a recipe at a store and again in the kitchen).
  • Re-access of identical content is often unplanned.

Diversity in Smartphone Usage (2010) by Hossein Falaki, Ratul Mahajan, Srikanth Kandula, Dimitrios Lymberopoulos, Ramesh Govindan, and Deborah Estrin

  • It’s important to determine individual resource use for smartphones because their greater app variety will give them greater variance in usage than traditional cell phones, and their lack of stable resources (such as power) that laptops have makes it more important to optimize their efficiency.
  • On every metric they studied, users differed by one or more orders of magnitude, meaning that trying to serve an average user will not serve users at the extremes of usage nearly as well as customizing will.
  • The relative popularity of various application types was roughly the same regardless of whether the users were heavy or light users and regardless of those users main motives for owning a smartphone.

How People Use the Web on Mobile Devices (2008) by Yanqing Cui and Virpi Roto

  • User mobile access patterns fall under the traditional categories of information seeking and communication/transaction. The authors add the category of personal space extension because people can save things from anywhere, but without risk of loss of saving on an individual mobile device.
  • On low bandwidth devices, Wikipedia is popular compared with search engines because it takes much of information that individual webpages would have and presents it as one synthesized result, presented immediately rather than behind further links.

A Meta-Analytical Review of Empirical Mobile Usability Studies (2011) building upon A Research Agenda for Mobile Usability (2007) by Constantinos K. Coursaris and Dan J. Kim.

  • Based on 100 papers published in the previous decade, the authors propose a usability evaluation framework for mobile environments, identifying four contextual factors (user, technology, task/activity, environment) which impact various key usability dimensions (such as efficiency, errors, ease of use, effectiveness, satisfaction, and learnability), thus causing various consquences (such as improved integration, increased adoption, retention, and loyalty).
  • They found a lack of research on mobile devices about accessibility or about the impact of aesthetics or involving unstructured tasks.
Forming impressions

Eyes Don’t lie: Understanding Users’ First Impressions on Website Design using Eyetracking (2011) by Sirjana Dahal

  • People demonstrate greater happiness and arousal when looking at sites they like.
  • People spend longer looking at sites they enjoy.
  • When forming first impressions, users fixate longest on the navigation and body of a page.

How People Recall Search Result Lists (2006) by Jaime Teevan

  • If you know what parts of an information display are memorable, you can draw attention to important changes by making them in the memorable areas and can hide insignificant changes by making them in the unmemorable areas.
  • Results presented earlier and results that are clicked are more likely to be recalled.
  • People tend to remember results as having been ranked higher than they actually were, probably as a result of remembering the results that are relevant to their own interests and that they feel should have been ranked near the top of the list.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions (2000) by Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci

  • Motivation has traditionally been viewed as a unitary concept: either a person is motivated or not. This view has shifted to accommodate a difference between intrinsic motivation (finding pleasure in the task itself) and extrinsic motivation.
  • The authors further break extrinsic motivation down into four categories, depending on how much it has been internalized: external regulation, introjection (involving the ego), identification (approved by oneself), integration (tied to one’s sense of self)
  • The main components of Self-Determination Theory (autonomy, social relatedness, and competence) help people to become more internally motivated. Of the three, autonomy is most strongly required to move to the more internal stages of extrinsic motivation.
Multimodal Communication

The benefits of multimodal information: a meta-analysis comparing visual and visual-tactile feedback (2006) and Comparing the effects of visual-auditory and visual-tactile feedback on user performance: a meta-analysis (2006) by Matthew S. Prewett, Liuquin Yang, Frederick R. B. Stilson, Ashley A. Gray, Michael D. Coovert, Jennifer L. Burke, Elizabeth Redden, and Linda R. Elliot

  • These meta-analyses found that visual-tactile feedback is more effective when multitasking under pressure and visual-auditory feedback is more effective with single low-stress tasks.
  • The addition of the tactile modality reduced reaction time and supported navigation and target acquisition tasks, but had no impact upon error rate and no benefit to communication tasks.

Using Non-Speech Sound to Overcome Information Overload (1997) by Stephen A. Brewster

  • The inclusion of background sounds to visual tasks can help to overcome information overload, enabling faster responses to errors.
  • Because they were useful, the sounds were not perceived as annoying.
  • The addition of sound did not improve the performance of the best partcipants, but helped the poorer ones.

Assessment of Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning Using Dual-Task Methodology (2002) by Roland Brünken, Susan Steinbacher, Jan L. Plass, and Detlev Leutner

  • Earlier studies demonstrated that audio-visual communication was more efficient that text-and-visual communication and assumed that the difference was caused by differing levels of cognitive load. This study used a secondary task to assess the cognitive load directly.
  • The cognitive load was greater for text-and-image presentation than for audio-visual presentation.
  • Reaction times were fastest when the only task was to react. Introducing another task, even a multimodal one, slowed reaction times.

A Split-Attention Effect in Multimedia Learning: Evidence for Dual Processing Systems in Working Memory (1998) by Richard E. Mayer and Roxana Moreno

  • Students can integrate words and images more easily when the words are presented as audio rather than text. This increased learning may be a result of both auditory and visual channels being in working memory simultaneously.

When Redundant On-Screen Text in Multimedia Technical Instruction Can Interfere With Learning (2004) by Slava Kalyuga, Paul Chandler and John Sweller

  • Presenting the same information in both auditory and visual forms can have a negative effect on comprehension because of mental effort wasted reconciling the identical streams of information.
  • Whether a redundancy effect (simultaneous presentation of identical materials is hard to synthesize) or a split-attention effect (sequential presentation is hard to synthesize, simultaneous easy) occurs can depend partially upon whether the users are experts or novices.

Multiple resources and performance prediction. (2002) by Christopher Wickens

  • Wickens’s Multiple Resource Model predicts greater interference between tasks if they share
    • stages (perceiving and thinking vs. responding)
    • sensory modalities (auditory vs. visual).
    • codes (right-brained spatial vs left-brained verbal)
    • visual channels (focal vs. peripheral)
  • Wickens propses a matrix by which workload could be calculated as a combination of intra-task difficulty and -inter-task interference.
  • The benefits of multimodal presentation may not be based in cognitive resources but rather in difficulties from scanning (between multiple visual stimuli) and masking (of one auditory stimulus by another).