All About Website Usability Blog – Holly Phillips


The coming evolution of usability, part 2
February 22, 2010, 4:16 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The question I left you with in my last blog was “how do we advance from a site that’s perfectly usable to one that’s engaging and fun?”  The answer is to broaden our focus and include the elements of enjoyability, engagement, and total experience in our designs.

I heard Jared Spool and Stephen Anderson share the example of Netflix.  They have a feature where they ask you to rate several movies, then they start recommending movies to you that they think you’ll like.  The more movies you rate, the better the recommendations are.  This drew Jared and Stephen in to the point where Stephen said he spent 6 hours rating movies on the site just to see what it would recommend to him.  And Jared said he was so impressed at getting recommendations of movies he hadn’t heard of that he now views the site as a place where he can go to get into a real nerdy discussion of movies instead of just a place to rent movies.  This feature doesn’t make the site any more ‘usable’, but it adds a level of enjoyment and engagement that it couldn’t have gotten by focusing on usability alone.

When we’ve asked people to rate our site and then asked “what would it take for you to rate it a 10?”, we often hear things like “I just don’t give 10’s unless the site really blows me away”.  No matter how hard we work on our navigation system or page layout, we’ll probably never get it to the point where it blows people away.  But if we add in elements that draw the visitor in and provide unique value or fun, like Netflix has done, we have a much better chance.

So yes, we definitely need to work on the basics and remove frustration and failure from the site.  But as we move up that maturity curve we need to start adding in elements of delight, seduction, and enjoyability to the visit.

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The coming evolution of usability, part 1
February 15, 2010, 4:13 am
Filed under: customer-centered-design, visual design

A change is coming over the usability field, and it promises to help move websites into a whole new realm of usefulness.  This change is a natural result of the evolution of design for usability. 

In the early days, the focus was on making websites usable:  making pages scannable, ensuring links conveyed the right scent and navigation was clear, making processes clear and straightforward, etc.  In essence, it was all about removing frustration and obstacles to using a site.

But now that we’ve grown as an industry and most sites follow at least basic usability rules, we’ve come to realize that this is not enough.  A user may be able to easily complete his task, but if it’s a hum-drum boring experience he’s likely to be merely satisfied and not happy, delighted, or eager to return.

I’m starting to see glimmers of this realization all over the place:

  • Stephen Anderson calls it “seductive interactions”
  • RJ Owen calls it “the differences between usability and user experience”
  • Forrester signals it by including “enjoyability” as one of the primary drivers of satisfaction
  • We see it in our own research that shows that traditional elements of usability account for only 60% of a visitor’s satisfaction with the experience

The question now is:  how do we advance from a site that’s perfectly usable to one that’s engaging and fun?  The answer to that is really the marriage of interaction design, visual design, and visitor engagement.  And it promises to open the door to a world of new possibilities.

(to be continued in next week’s blog)



Writing for the web
February 8, 2010, 4:43 am
Filed under: Content, scent, usability basics

In usability it’s tempting to focus on navigation, look&feel, search, and other elements of the interface and ignore the content.  But in the end, the content is really what matters.  We have been conducting a quarterly website satisfaction survey for years now, and “content” is always one of the top three dissatisfiers for our customers.  Missing content, confusing content, poorly-written content, mis-categorized content, marketing fluff disguised as real content…the list is very long.

That’s why I was excited to see this great article about improving content on the web by Shay Howe:  Writing for the Web:  The Right Strategy.  It’s worth taking a quick peek at.  Nothing earthshattering, just some good solid principles to follow when writing for the web.  I particularly like his bullets about “writing user-friendly content”:

  • Give users a summary
  • Get to the point quickly
  • Use small sentences
  • Limit one thought per paragraph
  • Use bullet points
  • Use sub headings
  • Do not over use exclamations!!!
  • Drive emphasis with repetition
  • Drop unnecessary adjectives
  • Use details, be specific
  • Use hyperlinks
  • Use a personal tone
  • Be unique
  • Escape content overload

He also advocates judicious use of fonts, colors, and sizes — things we’ve definitely seen in our research that help focus the customer on what you want him to focus on.

All in all a good reminder that even the best IA and UI’s will fail if not supported by appropriate, good content.