When you redesign a new site, how do you know users are going to like it? How can you ensure that you know how the redesign will sit with existing as well as new users?
Earlier this year, Facebook faced this dilemma when 1.7 million of their uses started a group called Petition Against the New Facebook. The purpose of the group was to boycott the redesign changes Facebook unleashed upon its users:
"We are all in the privacy business".
This was my general conclusion when working on next generation usability for the popular directory look-up portal whitepages.com website (used by 200 million adults in the US). It doesn't matter what your website does online, if it involves giving consumers information, you are in the privacy business first and foremost. What does this mean?
Maybe you have heard the saying "we'll take care of that in user training". The notion that problems users have can be resolved by user training is severely flawed. Yet entire departments rally around this belief and worse many companies seem to wrap product management around it.
The idea that you can educate users about how to use a user interface is misguided. The goal of usability is to create intuitive user interfaces. Intuitive means the design does not require understanding. Help and "user education" presupposes that both of these goals are possible.
My personal and professional experience tells me they are not. Maybe I am not typical: I don't read user manuals, I struggle with help systems and I go for defaults over configuring options. In fact those three behaviors are very typical of the "average user".
The Internet is great for taking a rapid look at what your competitors might be doing as you design a user interface. While this is a valuable learning opportunity, it can also be dangerous and inappropriate for your design.
The biggest problem I have found, is that user interface approaches or design elements do not carry neatly across contexts. Each design context is unique. By design context I mean a few things:
Usability awareness back in the White House?
Obama is already being described as the Internet President. Will his Internet savvy include an agenda for usability? If so, what might that agenda include? In this post I explore these questions, connect some dots and present some potential solutions for how Obama's technology goals are linked deeply to harnessing usability best practices.
Here is a recording from a live usability seminar I gave a few weeks ago on the topic of emotion design and pleasurability. (Sign up at the bottom of that page to our usability research newsletter to be alerted to upcoming free usability seminars like this)...