Friday, June 30, 2006

It's the User, Stupid

The value of usability testing ...

"Okay, so it's time to overhaul your e-commerce site or design a new one, and you've finally wrangled into the conference room everyone whose input you'll need: marketing people, the information technology guys, some ops folks, and of course, the CEO.

But the most important person in deciding which features and functions should be on the site and how they should be presented is absent. Who is that? The user. Or for those who find the term “user” off-putting, the customer.

Usability testing — observing how people interact with a site — is one of the most important things an e-commerce site operator can do to make a site design or overhaul project run more smoothly and yield better results. “Usability is really specific to each individual site,” says Ken Burke, founder/CEO of MarketLive, an e-commerce technology firm based in Petaluma, CA. “There are a lot of general themes, but there are nuances to every site that you wouldn't realize customers would have a reaction to. It's amazing how you'll discover things [in a usability test] that you otherwise would never have seen.”

It's also amazing, some might say, that so many online merchants fail to conduct usability studies.

“One of the reasons there are so many problems with usability is that there are so many stakeholders in any one of these projects,” says Nate Bolt, cofounder/CEO of San Francisco-based Website usability agency Bolt Peters User Experience. “The designer has one opinion, the engineer has another opinion, the business stakeholders have another opinion, the project manager has another opinion, and everybody has to agree. But the person who is not in the room is the user — every time.”"   continued ...   (Via Multichannel Merchant)

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