All About Website Usability Blog – Holly Phillips

The coming evolution of usability, part 3
March 1, 2010, 4:19 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Ok – so we all agree that focusing on the entire user experience, not just usability, is a good thing.  But why?  Is there any real return for doing that, or is it just something to make our visitors happier?

I’d argue that elevating your site to a place people enjoy going does indeed provide a financial return.  Take the Netflix example I gave in my last post.  If Jared now sees Netflix as a place to get into hairy discussions about obscure movies, he’s likely to go there more often, likely to try some of their recommendations, and clearly likely to praise the site to others.  And we all know that turning your customers into advocates is one of the best ways to bring in new customers.

Amazon is another great example.  Their customer rating system has one of the best reputations around, and people often go there before they make a purchase.  True, it doesn’t guarantee that people will actually buy from amazon, but it definitely increases the likelihood that once they find a product they want to buy, they’ll check out the recommendations at amazon and then check price and availability while they’re at it. 

So there is a clear financial payoff to including these less tangible elements in our design decisions.  Designing a successful and unfrustrating experience is good, but designing a successful, unfrustrating, enjoyable and engaging experience is where the real payoff will come.


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.