Below is a typical author profile on Microsoft Academic Search–an academic search engine that provides more visual analysis rather than merely lists the publications as that in Google Schoolar. I’ve heard from another fellow that a strong feature of Microsoft Academic Search is that it has a cool design of collaboration networks of each author. So I went there and checked it out. I just couldn’t find the proper place to click to get to the author’s collaboration network graphs! After my colleague pointed to me, I still felt it’s conter-intuitive somehow. Was it jus me? Can you find easily at the left column, a place to click to directly get to the author’s network graph?
Okay, it is here! It is indicated using a red circle below, where if you click, you will get to the authors’ collaboration network graph and some other graphs. I felt awful at the beginning that it is designed so big in order to catch the users’ attention, why I couldn’t see it? Was there any problems of my eyes that I simply omitted it?
After learning about the Gestalt principles and other design knowledge, now I know some reasons. First of all, this icon doesn’t have the affordance of clickability as written in one of Dr.V’s blog posts. It doesn’t look like something that I can click. It doesn’t have convexity like a button. It just looks like a logo there. Second, it is being designed big in order to catch the users’ attention, but this violates the Gestalt’s law of smallness in figure-ground organization. Not all big things are in the spotlight! All other items above and below it are smaller than it, so we would treat the other smaller items as the figure and feel this like the background. Third, beside smallness, this design also violates the Gestalt principles of contrast in figure-ground organization. All the items above and below it have the same design, but this one is different. Being different is supposed to make this icon stands out, but why not? Because the color schema of this icon is very similar to the overall background and is much lighter than the color used in the items above and below it. My eyes feel it may be part of the background that I do not need to care. If the designer wants to make this icon stand out, the color schema need to provide more contrast. Finally, it violates the Gestalt principles of similarity and continuity in grouping. The “co-authors path” actually is somehow related to the group of “Co-authors”, but right now the design makes it doesn’t belong to either the group above it nor the group below it. What’s worse, the color schema is very similar to the line graph on it’s right. My eyes feel it’s an extended part of the line graph on the right. So it somehow gets grouped with the line graph on the right. Overall, my eyes and brain feel this is a non-clickable logo that is either part of the line graph on the right or part of the background that I do not need to care.
I also found that the text inside of this icon changes among “co-author path”, “co-author graph”, “citation graph”, and “genealogy graph” kinda randomly each time I refresh the page. I understand this happens because there are several different types of graphs being offered, but that it takes the user to refresh the page each time to find this out is a bit disturbing. If the changing of text inside of this icon must be used, I would suggest to make the text flash automatically, which also brings in motion that can make this icon more eye-catching.
Good thing is that, this interface does offer another way to get to the graphs. The user can click the orange title “Co-authors(n)” and get to the co-authors page, and then click “View Co-author Graphs”. This is not as direct, but right now seems more intuitive than the logo-like icon/button thing.
What do you think?