Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Five Usability Challenges of Web-Based Applications

Examining usability challenges for web-based applications ...

"Recently, networking site Facebook.com introduced a new feature the designers thought users would love. Instead of forcing users to check up on every friend’s Facebook pages constantly to see any change in the friend’s status, they created a “mini feed” which instantly displayed all changes on their own Facebook page. The designers thought users would embrace the new feature, seeing it as a real strength of the site.

Instead, users rejected the mini feed. They didn’t like how it was propagating information they perceived to be personal across the entire user base, seeing the feature as an invasion of their online privacy. Within 24 hours of the feature’s introduction, more than 750,000 of the eight million users had signed online petitions, putting Facebook’s new feature squarely on the front page of both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

(It’s interesting to note Facebook users found out about the petition by seeing other people sign it in their own mini feed display. The feature itself contributed to the protest’s impressive speed and strength.)

Having 10% of your users reject and protest a new feature within 24 hours is an issue unique to web-based applications. If users don’t like a feature in their desktop word processor, they may complain and some may editorialize, but you wouldn’t see such an immediate and passionate response.

Web-based applications present usability challenges we don’t often see in other types of designs. These challenges need to be top-of-mind as the design team creates, updates, and maintains the application.

Usability Challenge #1: Scalability
Usability Challenge #2: Visual Design
Usability Challenge #3: Comprehension
Usability Challenge #4: Interactivity
Usability Challenge #5: Change Management"    (Continued via UIE)    [Usability Resources]

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