Friday, May 25, 2007

Google's new 'Website Optimizer': what does it mean for User-Centred Design?

More about the Google Website Optimizer ...

"When Google releases a product it can be cataclysmic for the companies that inhabit that area. Google Website Optimizer, a User-Centred Design tool, has just been released. Should we all be looking for a new job?

Google Website Optimizer (GWO) is free, it's easy to use, and unlike conventional user testing, you don't need a research lab nor pay for participant recruitment since you tap into your existing website traffic.

This is how it works - GWO allows you to evolve your site by monitoring live user behaviour. You give it a number of different page elements and it alternates between combinations of them on your site. It then calculates the conversion rates with the live data and gives you a report showing which combinations are the most successful. It's like natural selection - the good combinations win, the bad ones die, and you sit back and watch it all happen. It's frightening how quick and cheap it is to run these tests.

But here's the weakness: GWO only records behavioural information – it doesn't record intentions. So it can show you which design combinations work well, but it can't tell you why. This is where research methods that use good old fashioned human contact come in, such as user testing, contextual interviews and ethnography. As well as observing behaviour, you talk to your user about their needs, goals and expectations. You don't just look at the computer screen, you look into their eyes, and you listen to what they have to say. This gives you a rich understanding of what makes them tick, helping you think beyond your current designs."    (Continued via Usability News)    [Usability Resources]

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