Results for category "Usability"

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Usability Schmoozability: Put People First

amazon home page

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.

Website Design, In Order

First Things FirstPeople first. Content next. Design & development after those two. Repeat as needed.

That’s the order to follow if you want your website or app to be intuitive, easy, and satisfying for the people who use it – your customers, citizens, clients, etc.

If you start with designing features and functions first, you can become committed to things your customers don’t care about. If you wait to fit the content people want into your established page or visual design, you may have to fit round pegs into square holes.

Of course, you can go back and try to fit the customer’s needs and the content they want into your design later.  But it will take extra time, and will rarely be as elegant as a project that puts people first to begin with.

Imagine designing a building before you know who will occupy it and what they will do there. A preschool is different than a bank is different than a church.  Yes, you can convert a facility made to pump fuel – a gas station – into a place for feeding people.  But your customers will know the difference, and the retrofit won’t be easy or cheap.

“We didn’t build this with you in mind.” That is the message sent by websites and technology that is hard to navigate, difficult to learn, and scattered with features that seem to have no order (because they were tacked on later, after people’s needs were clear).

If that’s the message you want your website to send, then go ahead and design it before you consider people and the content they need. Otherwise, I recommend starting with a user-centered design process. Your results will show the difference.

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.

Government Websites & Usability

Usability Matters Most for Government

  1. You provide services and information that people rely upon. Government websites have a responsibility to be accurate and effective.
  2. Government websites are like a monopoly. People have to go through your site to get permits, pay taxes, or access government services. If a commercial website is not user-friendly, the customer simply goes somewhere else to buy.
  3. Save taxpayer money. Answer people’s questions before they call or come in. Collect payments more efficiently. Accept applications electronically.
  4. Maintain your investment. You’ve spent taxpayer money to update and improve your site. Make sure the public continues to get its money’s worth by maintaining content, and testing and improving usability.
  5. Increase compliance with rules and regulations by producing information that is easily understood and acted upon.
  6. Encourage public involvement. Meetings, minutes, surveys, social media discussions– you’ll get more input and engagement when people can find and easily read your information online.
  7. Accessible design. Deliver information that can be accessed by a variety of technologies (phone, tablet, desktop), in many settings (loud, bright, distracting), by all citizens (seniors, people with disabilities using assistive technology).
  8. The federal government does it (or at least tries to). Federal agencies are mandated to improve usability by the Plain Writing Act, the E-Government Act, Section 508 standards that ensure access and inclusion for people with disabilities, and other policies.

More Support for Government Usability

What Is Usability? Links

The value of usability:

“The $300 million button,” by Jared Spool

“ROI Calculator,” by Human Factors International

Government Usability Case Studies,” DigitalGov.Gov

What is usability? Read these definitions:

“What Does Usability Mean? Looking Beyond ‘ease of use,'” by Whitney Quesenbery

“Usability 101” from a founder of usability, Jakob Nielsen

“Using the 5Es to Understand Users,” by Whitney Quesenbery, again – I love her Es!

Comparing designs? Read:

“Define Stronger A/B Testing through UX Research”

“Success Rate Assessment,” which has a good explanation and graphics showing how usability testing can help set design goals


What is Usability Testing?

What is Usability Testing?

Your system analytics data, customer surveys, and market research tell you what people do and think. Usability testing helps answer why.

We measure what matters. Are you measuring your users?

Usability testing is a one-on-one session between a target user and the researcher – often with other discreet observers or video tape for stakeholders to watch later.

You can get powerful insights into how people use your technology and where they get lost. Even though you usually test only a handful of people, you’ll get a lot of data.

After conducting the tests, you analyze that data  use it to identify the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of what works for users. Depending on the scope and budget of the project, you may discuss the findings in a post-test meeting, at a formal presentation, and/or with a written report.

I can help you do usability testing on:

  • Websites
  • Forms
  • Online payment systems
  • Mapping tools
  • Letters

What about focus groups?

What people say and what they actually do can be two very different things. Surveys and focus groups are good ways to get people’s opinions of a product or service. But the only way to really know if your website works for people is to watch them use it. That’s a usability test.