If you target audience is or includes college-age users, new research Jakob Nielsen has some good insight.
In summary, they found that students are multi-taskers who move through websites rapidly, often missing the item they come to find. They’re enraptured by social media but reserve it for private conversations and thus visit company sites from search engines.
- Students are comfortable with technology and it doesn’t intimidate them. But, college students avoid website elements that they perceive as “unknown” for fear of wasting time. They pass over areas that appear too difficult or cumbersome to use. If they don’t perceive an immediate payoff for their efforts, they won’t click on a link, fix an error, or read detailed instructions.Students don’t like to learn new user interface styles. They prefer websites that employ well-known interaction patterns.
- Students often appreciate multimedia, and certainly visit sites like YouTube. But they don’t want to be blasted with motion and audio at all times.
- Students often judge sites on how they look. But they usually prefer sites that look clean and simple rather than flashy and busy. Students don’t go for fancy visuals and they definitely gravitate toward one very plain user interface: the search engine. Students turn to search at the smallest provocation in terms of difficult navigation.
- Virtually all students keep one or more tabs permanently opened to social networking services like Facebook. But they associate Facebook and similar sites with private discussions, not with corporate marketing. When students want to learn about a company, university, government agency, or non-profit organization they turn to search engines to find that organization’s official website. They don’t look for the organization’s Facebook page.