Sunday, 12 October 2008

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, I would call it a duck.

Just a few days ago my Nokia Phone Suite application told me there was a new version available. And the installation surprised me again. It's the year 2008 and the most simple usability rules are still unknown to some software developers.

Let me show you the dialog:

It is really simple. If you suggest I can click YES the should be a YES button. Not a button with a green V. Same for the NO button. Not a red X.

Call it what it is.

I understand: it it obvious, everyone can figure out that the green V is the YES and the red x is the NO. But it takes (a little) time to figure that out. And that, only that, can kill the trust users have in your application. Dr. Eric Schaffer of Human Factors International talks about PET design. Design for Persuation, Emotion and Trust. I believe it's a fair point. Especially the fact that there always is tension between that and Usability. In the Nokia case, the designers probably wanted to make a trendy flashy application (it's a lot of young people who use mobile phone applications, not?).

I think Nokia went wrong here in the installation of the application. They don't do what they promise: offer a YES and NO button. Bye bye trust.

Will the end user regain his trust and trust the application itself or will they quit using it at the first failure?

I leave you with this question, but I can make a guess...

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Customer Experience and User Experience

"The customer is always right"

"Know thy user, for he is not thee"

A marketeer looks differently at an online customer than a web designer. A Usability Analyst looks differently at an online user than a web designer. So do marketeers and Usability Analists look the same way at an online user?

In the real world: they don't. But I think they should. We all know that a website is not a pure technical thing, neither a pure marketing and sales thing and neither a pure user thing. These three forces work together and since the beginning of the internet, the technical forces always been stronger than the others and in the last few years the marketing and sales force has become one of the strongest forces: we need return on investment!

Lately, organisations start to realize that Usability of a website is very important. If your website is not usable they will leave. And even worse: if your competitor's website is more usable, they'll use that one because the User Experience is better!

And a good user experience is the basis for a good customer experience. For a good customer experience you need to look at the whole customer life-cycle. Huub Esten, my collegue at Capgemini says: "You need to be the best in one part and at least as good as the others for the other parts of the process". Especially when your company does online business, awareness of Usability and User Centered Design is key.

In his latest "Alertbox", the Usability guru Jakob Nielsen told about a research where they found that if your webpage has about 111 words on it, about 50% will be read. With more words that percentage drops fast. So tell that to the marketing people: your customers will read only half (or less!) of what you need to say to them.


Thursday, 28 February 2008

A new era: Rich Internet comes to your desktop!

A lot of people will say it has been there for years/awhile, but I think that with the launch of Adobe AIR 1.0 in combination with Flex 3 and products like Mozilla's XULRunner, Rich Internet is coming to your desktop.

In fact, that is a funny thing! Over the last few years desktop applications have moved to the internet, loosing richness but gaining reach. The next move was gaining richness with the introduction of Rich Internet Applications.

But now!

By bringing Rich Internet to the desktop, we complete the circle and combine all those things. It adds the availability of local data to the whole thing. Things like this have been there for a bit for a time already, but now these big players like Adobe and Mozilla truly believe in the future of bringing web applications to your desktop, a new era has truly started. And not forget Google Gears.

Read the article by Technology Review on Adobe's Kevin Lynch about Offline Web Applications. Check the O'Reilly blog about Mozilla, part 1 and part 2.

The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades...

P.S. I'm very curious who will extend the picture above to support these new technologies.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Are users getting more experienced? Should we drop Usability Design Guidelines?

Jakob Nielsen, the famous Usability guru, wrote an article about Usability enemies and the counter arguments they have against design guidelines:
  • "You're testing idiots — most users are smarter and don't mind complexity."
  • "You were right in the past, but users have now learned how to use advanced websites, so simplicity isn't a requirement anymore."
In a recent research, they concluded that user skills are improving, but slightly. Still a lot of guidelines still apply...

(Quote) For now, one thing is clear: we're confirming more and more of the old usability guidelines. Even though we have new issues to consider, the old issues aren't going away. A few examples:
  • Email newsletters remain the best way to drive users back to websites. It's incredible how often our study participants say that a newsletter is their main reason for revisiting a site. Most professional users are not very interested in podcasts or newsfeeds (RSS).
  • Opening new browser windows is highly confusing for most users. Although many users can cope with extra windows that they've opened themselves, few understand why the Back button suddenly stops working in a new window that the computer initiated. Opening new windows was #2 on my list of top-10 Web design mistakes of 1999; that this design approach continues to hurt users exemplifies both the longevity of usability guidelines and the limited improvement in user skills.
  • Links that don't change color when clicked still create confusion, making users unsure about what they've already seen on a site.
  • Splash screens and intros are still incredibly annoying: users look for the "skip intro" button — if not found, they often leave. One user wanted to buy custom-tailored shirts and first visited Turnbull & Asser because of their reputation. Clicking the appropriate link led to a page where a video started to play without warning and without a way to skip it and proceed directly to actual info about the service. The user watched a few seconds; got more and more agitated about the lack of options to bypass the intro, and finally closed down the site and went to a competitor. Customer lost.
  • A fairly large minority of users still don't know that they can get to a site's homepage by clicking its logo, so I still have to recommend having an explicit "home" link on all interior pages (not on the homepage, of course, because no-op links that point to the current page are confusing — yet another guideline we saw confirmed again several times last week). It particularly irks me to have to retain the "explicit home link" guideline, because I had hoped to get rid of this stupid extra link. But many users really do change very slowly, so we'll probably have to keep this guideline in force until 2020 — maybe longer. At least breadcrumbs are a simple way to satisfy this need.
  • People are still very wary, sometimes more so than in the past, about giving out personal information. In particular, the B2B sites in this new study failed in exactly the same way as most B2B sites in our major B2B research: by hitting users with a registration screen before they were sufficiently committed to the site.
  • Non-standard scrollbars are often overlooked and make people miss most of the site's offerings. The following screens show two examples from last week's testing.

(End Quote)

Read the whole article "User Skills Improving, But Only Slightly", by Jakob Nielsen.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

The Usability of driving a car

If you have trouble convincing people that Usability is very important for your website, Rich Internet Application (RIA) or any other application, just put them in a strange car and tell them to drive...

I realised this when my car broke down and I needed a rental. Since my car is a company car, it always is a surprise which rental you get. Usually it is a car which is completely unknown to me, so it will be a long test drive.

When I got the car and wanted to drive away, I needed to look around to see if the controls were like I was used to. Usually things like steering wheels, throttles etc. are just the same, so I can get in and just drive away!

Less important things are less obvious, like changing the interval speed of the windscreen wipers and stuff like that.

And that is why people who can drive, can drive in any car! So, wouldn't it be nice if it was the same for using a website or application? And still, this is not the case...

A website should be obvious to use, like a car is. You shouldn't need to do a lot of thinking (read "Don't make me Think" by Steve Krug). People should be able to do the most common tasks or actions without reading the manual first. Off course, the "battle" between design and Usability comes up here, but I think it should be a major challenge for the designer to design for a website with great Usability. This is better than a great design leaving people confused on how to use it... So the Usability Analyst and the Designer should work together from the beginning.

If you want to introduce Usability in your project or create Usability awareness, please keep going and maybe use this example. I'm sure that anyone who ever drove a type car they've never drove before know exactly what you are talking about.

(Interested? Also read this post)