Tickers and Web pages

Recently, a client asked me my opinion on tickers. My response was, “They’re great for the stock market, and bad for Web pages.” A quick little Web search on usability expert Jakob Nielsen’s Web site, useit.com, found this quote, from his commentary on Sun’s Web site redesign, circa 1997:

Almost all users disliked the scrolling tickers (marquees) in some of the prototypes. Users complained that they were hard to read and time-consuming to interpret. One user kept missing the beginning of the text and thus had difficulty understanding what the message was about. One user said that he tended to ignore such text with the explanation that “I have never seen any information in crawling text that had any interest to me.” One more indication that users can see through gimmicks and that they have an explicit understanding of Web design and what they like and don’t like on the Web. (Usability Testing of Advanced Homepage Concepts)

My sentiments exactly. A ticker on a Web page is like a skywriter on a beach — when you’re just about to walk back to your car. In other words, odds are you’re not catching the full text, part of it may already be faded out, and you’re not going to wait around for the rest of it to appear.

If you want to give people content on a Web page, give it to them. A callout box with your hot news item can be much more effective, and doesn’t suffer the usability drawbacks of a ticker.

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