Saturday, September 29, 2007

What’s So Scary About Web Site Usability Reviews?

Why UI reviews are intimidating ...

"My initiation into usability was cruel. Looking back, however, I think the experience taught me how sensitive web site owners are. Some may want to let the air out of your car tires in exchange for your honesty.


I changed her name for this story, but trust me. She hates me. She was the Project Manager for a company I worked for. In my first year there as a User Interface Engineer I was assigned to a web site redesign project. Janna came to me with a site design that was determined by some mysterious person I never met. My job was to implement all the changes the stakeholders wanted.

I did. It was a web site driven by a huge application that was also being redesigned to be more user friendly. Every time Janna and I met, I changed fonts and colors. I’d move fields and check boxes. I did whatever I was told, even though inside my head, I was asking “WHY!” Some of the enhancements made no sense. I couldn’t see how we were improving the site.

One day, I overheard a salesman selling the new web site to a potential client who might have wanted what the application could do. I was shocked. We were still in development, with no testing planned and I wasn’t aware of any roll-out date. I couldn’t understand what he was selling. Was it the site I was working on that I knew sucked?

... Are We So Mean?

There were many lessons I could learn from that experience What sticks out is that the company had their web development process set up wrong. Had they brought in a usability person way back in the very beginning, when the redesign was hashed out, they would have better understood what to fix, why, how and for who.

The company was showing some thought when they brought in a Human Factors person and put her into the UI department. She was a huge resource for them and myself. She helped us understand how important it was to put the end users first. It used to be a “Stakeholder wants it this way or else” approach, but a site owner tends to want what they like put on a web site rather than what will work, or what will convert, or what their customers feel are their primary tasks.

I know my job as a usability consultant scares people. I do what I do because I love applications that not only function, but are such a pleasure to use you want to go back and do it again. I don’t like telling anyone how to run their business and I don’t like telling them that their raised table cell borders are so 1996, but if their competition has done their homework and built a web site that rocks, they’re getting your money too."    (Continued via Cre8pc on Usability & Holistic SEO)    [Usability Resources]


Anonymous Tech Talks said...

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5:14 AM  

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