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Usability Schmoozability: Put People First

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Amazon takes usability seriously. So should you.

I got the idea for my WordCamp Seattle presentation topic from usability guru Jared Spool. His article, “How Changing a Button Increased a Site’s Annual Revenues by $300 Million” powerfully illustrates the business value of paying attention to usability.

Schmoozing is about giving people what they want so that you can get what you want. That’s website usability in a nutshell. Your business or agency goals matter, but you won’t achieve them if you don’t put your user’s needs first.

It’s a good thing to keep in mind whether you’re building a website, a business, or a marriage – they’re all about relationships. But on the world wide web, those relationships can be very short term. Don’t ask too much. Steve Krug’s clear definition of usability is in his book “Don’t Make Me Think”

Something is usable if a person:

  • can figure out how to use the thing
  • to accomplish some desired goal
  • without it being more trouble than it’s worth

Don’t make answering a common question, completing a form, or giving you money  “more trouble than it’s worth.” When you do, you:

  • Lose customers
  • Get phone calls
  • Make a bad impression

Conferences are all about schmoozing … I mean networking. I really enjoyed talking about usability at WordCamp Seattle.  I also learned a lot from the other speakers, and the many people I met in between.

You can view my “Usability Schmoozability” presentation on Slideshare.

Content is King

Last week I attended an Information Architecture & User Experience Meetup on content strategy in Seattle. It’s a big commitment of time to get downtown on a rainy evening, but it’s part of my commitment to professional development.

When I was accepted into the user-centered design program at the University of Washington, I wasn’t sure just where my communications experience and interests fit in. So I dove into exploring the field of user experience design (UX). I attended events hosted by the Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI), Content Strategy Meetups, User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA) presentations, Society for Technical Communications networking, World Information Architecture Day, and various WordPress meetups.

I have found that my “people” – the ones whose skills and geeky tendencies fit mine – are content strategists and information architects. I have always been a customer advocate who believes that content is king.

I am also a UX designer with many years of experience in the fields of usability, content strategy, and information design – I just didn’t call it those things at the time.

One of the slides at last week Information Architecture Meetup showed a stuffed squirrel amidst a disassembled jigsaw puzzle. The squirrel wore a crown. The presenter, Misty Weaver, explained that the art of piecing content together into a cohesive whole requires extreme focus and mastery – and in her case, loud music.

Like Misty, I love making content fit together. I also love finding the pieces that just don’t fit, so we can cut content down to what is most important for each web page and website to provide.

She described a content audit identifying:

  • What content you have on your website
  • Where is it?
  • Is it any good?

My favorite slide of the night said simply: “The internet is full. Please stop.”

My UX niche is in big picture thinking and understanding what each agency and website has to offer that is unique and valuable to your visitors. The right content, well-organized, is a powerful thing.

It’s my passion.

I always come home from a professional meeting with a few new Twitter feeds to follow, blogs to read, and insights into the user experience design process.

Takeaways from last week include:

Misty Weaver’s Meaning and Measure blog, where you can learn more about content strategy and the value of content audits.

Yes, I can help you with that.