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As An Seo/sem Or Web Dev, What Do You Want To Know About Usability?


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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 09:05 PM

Say you're an SEO or SEM or employee in web dev or project mgr...and your boss says "I'm sending you to a search engine marketing conference and I want you to pick up some education usability".

What would you want to know?

What would be useful information for you work or business?

Is it more about what it is, or how to implement it or a balance of both?

Why would the info be useful, do you think?

#2 iamlost

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 09:33 PM

As a jack-of-all-webdev and master of none :infinite-banana: who once upon a time had to sell my webdev services...
I would emphasise:
* what usability is in relation to the whole webdev process.
* how it cuts across (impacts) all other webdev processes.
* that usability is a critical part of holistic webdev.
* an outline of what it entails and when it should be invoked throughout the webdev process.
* that it does not matter how wonderful a site looks or how well it ranks if the visitor is constrained and conversion is blocked.

** provide before and after examples, if possible, showing statistical and revenue improvements.
** provide lots of pretty graphs and charts to illustrate for the imaginatively challenged.

*** provide a nice binder with printed presentation plus CD to allow printing more - they will need oomph to sell the ones who stayed home. Bonus points if CD includes video presentation for managers/c-level too dumb distracted busy to read.

Afterthought afterthought
Sorry for the snarky tone. I really really really got tired of clients.


#3 eKstreme

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Posted 19 July 2008 - 04:48 AM

Good question Kim.

I think I would like two things:

1. Examples of bad usability can be with an explanation of why it's bad. The examples should range from the obvious "OMG which idiot created this monstrosity" to more subtle bad usability example that take a while to figure out or need a lot of data to see its effects (say fixing this one thing upped sales by 10%).

2. Best practices and guidelines. I love Steve Krug's book and I think something similar like the top 15 mistakes of usability or the top 10 things to try to improve usability or the top 10 things to test for better usability. Even a prescription of how to do user testing would be awesome.

Hope this helps!

P

#4 EGOL

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Posted 19 July 2008 - 08:19 AM

I would want to see some side by side comparisions.... which is better?... and why.

*Glad I don't have clients or dumb managers.*

#5 bwelford

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Posted 19 July 2008 - 10:52 AM

... something similar like the top 15 mistakes of usability or the top 10 things to try to improve usability or the top 10 things to test for better usability.

I think that is a great idea, Pierre. Perhaps a checklist of the seven most important things to check for the usability of a given webpage could be proposed as the minimal Must Do list on usability. This could be an important hook in getting more people to think about usability and the user experience.

#6 saschaeh

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Posted 19 July 2008 - 12:31 PM

Id be interested in facts, stats and case studies. Real practical stuff moving a little away from usability theory.

Although i like iamlost first point: "what usability is in relation to the whole webdev process." because to me the lines get blurred.

#7 SEOigloo

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Posted 19 July 2008 - 02:02 PM

Hi Kim -
I love seeing those studies where a usability expert runs testing of objects on a page. For instance, they test whether a blue 'add to cart' button gets more/less clicks than a green one. I find the peek into human psychology these studies provide so fascinating!

Miriam

#8 iamlost

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Posted 19 July 2008 - 02:05 PM

saschaeh brings up the biggest stumbling block I encounter when discussing the various webdev considerations and a big selling point when I was a contractor: the lines get blurred.

This is not a problem for a sole developer like myself or EGOL. It is a serious difficulty in corporate hierarchies where lines of authority and communication get crossed and recrossed.

eg.: developing an initial or revamped site architecture should have business plan, marketing plan, SEO, SEM, accessibility, usability, and much more input and consideration.

As an outside consultant/webdev way back when I got many a job by selling the idea of sidestepping internal conflicts and outsourcing the process to a single co-ordination point (me :infinite-banana:). Because of this history I believe that holistic webdev agencies or co-ops of outside webdev services will continue to flourish in the corporate and enterprise marketplace.

Off Topic offtopic

Glad I don't have clients or dumb managers.

Hey prof, remember those students, alumni, fellow faculty, deans, burser/comptroller, chancellor/president, Board of Trustees/Regents...ad nauseum...

I suspect you too had moments of frustration :infinite-banana:


#9 EGOL

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Posted 19 July 2008 - 05:42 PM

Hey prof, remember those students, alumni, fellow faculty, deans, burser/comptroller, chancellor/president, Board of Trustees/Regents...ad nauseum...

Yes, I remember those and accreditation, tenure committees and paperwork.

Live is good when you work for yourself.

#10 RisaBB

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Posted 19 July 2008 - 10:29 PM

I think I'd want to know the specific elements on a page that make a site more usable, for ex. a breadcrumb trail, location of a phone # and the importance of it, relevant calls to action on a page, logical navigation architecture, roadblocks to usability.

Since we're talking about usability, I was on a camping trip 2 weeks ago with my family, and I realized that "usability," while I've only know it to be used for websites, is really a word that can be used for any facet in life.

I've wondered when and where to use this photo - but here it is:

Posted Image

Look what bad usability that fire ring is on the right. Who designed that fire ring? How could it possibly be used? The brochure to the state park, Promised Land State Forest, in Greentown, PA, said to keep campfires low. That fire ring is about 3 feet high. We'd have to make a massive blaze for it to even be seen over the rim. And putting a grill on top and cooking food? Forget about it. We'd have to use about 20 bags of coal to reach the grill.

So we did what other campers had to do to have a usable fire ring - we built one with rocks. And isn't it a beautiful fire ring?

Now that is bad usability. Whoever designed that ring, and whoever awarded the contract to the firm who provided hundreds of these rings, did not consult with the camper to see if the fire ring was usable.

OK - I'm off on another camping trip to one of my favorite places - Lancaster, PA, where I am always fascinated by the Amish and a much simpler life. As I joked to my kids last year as we watched the horse and buggies go by - Why get somewhere in 10 minutes when you can get there in an hour? Ah - life without blackberries and faxes, email and IM, social media, and all that stuff. That's why I love it there.

Risa

#11 DonnaFontenot

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Posted 19 July 2008 - 11:06 PM

Honestly, I'd want the Lazy Person's Usability Cheat Sheet. Where's the checklist? I want to be able to just run down a list of items that should always be considered / checked / used / not used / avoided at all costs, etc. (grouped accordingly), with little checkboxes next to each. Heck, one printable checklist, and one poster-sized for hanging on the wall, even! :)

Sure, sure, I know each site is unique, so the checklist may or may not apply to everyone, but I'd still want the cheat sheet anyway. :)

#12 SEOigloo

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Posted 20 July 2008 - 12:40 AM

Ah - life without blackberries


I made blackberry cobbler tonight! :pieinface: Our new house has huge, huge hedgerows of blackberries on 2 sides.

Risa, your photo and comments cracked me up. I hope you complained to the camp host about the poor usability of his fire pit!

Miriam

#13 RisaBB

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Posted 20 July 2008 - 12:59 AM

Now that's a blackberry I can love!

#14 iamlost

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Posted 20 July 2008 - 11:30 AM

It is all the previous posting ladies fault that I have fallen to doublechocolate cake, fresh strawberries and icecream for breakfast. Shame on you all... :pieinface:

The blackberries look like a bumper crop in a week or so...

#15 cre8pc

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Posted 20 July 2008 - 06:20 PM

Thanks all! Gives me some new ideas and helps me check in to see what people want and where they are in their interest, skills, work needs, etc.

Was thinking about usability while floating on one of my rafts in the pool. My daughter, after watching me try to get into the danged things (blown up plastic chairs, lounges, etc.), and falling off, got me one that's easy to get into, but it's more like a chair than flat.

We have a blue one that only my son seems to be able to get onto and stay on. With these plastic rafts, they lose air and get holes, so we always need to get new ones every summer.

Makes me wonder at purposeful non-usability, where something is intended to break or be hard to use so you have to keep getting new ones.

That doesn't explain the funky fire pits at the campground though!

#16 iamlost

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Posted 20 July 2008 - 06:48 PM

Look what bad usability that fire ring is on the right. Who designed that fire ring? How could it possibly be used? The brochure to the state park, Promised Land State Forest, in Greentown, PA, said to keep campfires low. That fire ring is about 3 feet high. We'd have to make a massive blaze for it to even be seen over the rim. And putting a grill on top and cooking food? Forget about it. We'd have to use about 20 bags of coal to reach the grill.

That doesn't explain the funky fire pits at the campground though!

They have those things at some provincial parks here as well. The idea is sound but the reality is not.
Please follow the bouncing thought carefully:
* by totally surrounding the fire with steel it stops logs rolling and keeps fire confined - fewer wildfires..
* by raising the fire (not sure if yours had this feature) and adding bottom holes it makes lighting easier - important for city folk and damp wood.
* by having high sides and requesting a small fire less wood is consumed (cost reduction), it burns more completely (reflective sides), fewer sparks escape (fewer wildfires), and grill is higher for less stooping and fewer (liability - US, heath care - Canada, cost reduction) accidents.

Note: Food done over a bed of hot coals low down within the relective steel sides actually cooks better than over higher or leaping flames - but that is not the general perception.

Unfortunately, city folk don't treat a campfire as a cooking fire but as a comfort-gather-round-the-fire fire. They want to sit looking into the coals and watch the flames dance. Which is impossible within what is really a modified burn barrel.

Another instance of the clash between efficiency and usability, theory and reality.

Makes me wonder at purposeful non-usability, where something is intended to break or be hard to use so you have to keep getting new ones.

Ah, yes, the consumer economy. I mean if things actually lasted and could be repaired rather than requiring replacement whatever would we do? :D

#17 saschaeh

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 10:34 AM

Honestly, I'd want the Lazy Person's Usability Cheat Sheet. Where's the checklist? I want to be able to just run down a list of items that should always be considered / checked / used / not used / avoided at all costs, etc.



Thanks all! Gives me some new ideas and helps me check in to see what people want and where they are in their interest, skills, work needs, etc.



What would be another interesting thread in a similar vain would be to ask what people find great and horrible in terms of websites usability.

EG: CSS Menu drop downs that dont allow you to open the link in another tab using middle click or [rightclick > open in new tab]... (because links are image based - i think)

and we just all list our experiences/Ideas!?

#18 cre8pc

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 12:29 PM

For the checklist idea...

1. Would you pay for one?

2. If so, how much?

3. Desired number of checkpoints? (Would be too long, too short or if divided up logically, length is not an issue.)



For "bad vs good web sites", I always squeamish about this. Nobody minds being an example of a "good" design, but it's no fun being the "bad" one. I used an example of "bad" in my SEO Ninja's class with the design of the owner AFTER I'd already redesigned his site and the new one is up.

What are your thoughts and preferences or advice on how to do comparisons in a non-invasive approach?

#19 iamlost

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 01:06 PM

What are your thoughts and preferences or advice on how to do comparisons in a non-invasive approach?

It depends somewhat on what you are showcasing - a total Flash site is, well, the whole site. However, if you are highlighting parts of pages, i.e. nav, those could be lifted and placed into a default otherwise fine template as focussed examples: here is good site with bad nav, here it is with nav made usable.

Or only pick on big corporate/government sites as your bad examples. They are beyond embarrassment.

For the checklist idea...
1. Would you pay for one?
2. If so, how much?
3. Desired number of checkpoints? (Would be too long, too short or if divided up logically, length is not an issue.)

You should have some base stats from your current offering?

With all the blogs and their '10 things', '10 best', etc. people have begun to view 'lists', including checklists, as free content to be reiterated and republished and scraped and devalued into oblivion.

The problem with offering a paid standalone checklist is that if the amount is too low it is cheap content - pay and republish as one's own, for example; raising the price beyond that cheap content threshold likely exceeds the list value. Where I believe they still hold value is as an 'extra'. Take my course and get a checklist, buy my ebook and get a checklist, etc.

#20 DonnaFontenot

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 01:08 PM

For the checklist idea...

1. Would you pay for one?

2. If so, how much?

3. Desired number of checkpoints? (Would be too long, too short or if divided up logically, length is not an issue.)


If I'd spent money to go to a conference, I would probably assume any handouts would be free, so no, I probably wouldn't want to pay for that. However, that particular checklist could be the "short version" for free, and there could be information at the bottom of the checklist that says something along the lines of "for the full cheat sheet, call blah, or go to blah.com".

Not being a usability expert, I don't know how many checkpoints there could logically be. But...let's say it could be broken down into 50 things. The free, short version could be the top 10 main categories, and the paid, long version could break each of those categories down into it's sub-parts of 5 items each.

As for pricing...no idea. I'm the world's worst at pricing things, and I'm notoriously cheap, so I'm sure I'd suggest something underpriced.

Now...another thought....

1. Free short version
2. Paid long version
and ...
3. Higher-priced paid version, that also does some sort of site check for at least some of the items that can be checked via automation. (I realize not everything could be checked by a machine, of course. Humans must be involved in the process, but I assume there must be at least 'some' things that could be checked by a script. I could be wrong, though).

#21 saschaeh

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 01:41 PM

1. Would you pay for one?

2. If so, how much?

3. Desired number of checkpoints? (Would be too long, too short or if divided up logically, length is not an issue.)



I guess it all depends on the source and Id want to be able to see some kind of content index, or first 10 of 50, so I know how applicable it was to me and/or my business. It would be something I’d want to have handy when developing new websites or reviewing existing ones. Perhaps rather then checkpoints it could be more like a questionnaire.

These being high-level examples:

> Has this or that been done?
> Does that distract from primary focus of website?
> What does a user come to the site for?
> What do they feel when they leave?
> Has your navigation followed these checkpoints?
> How do you stimulate a journey that achieves the websites goals?
> Etcetera

Obviously braking it into relevant chapters.

I imagine you could get much more detailed! You could really create a book if you went the full nine yards! Starting from initial layout of a website giving different options and illustrating which are the better and perhaps run through some bad ones and possibly explaining why... Then you could start breaking it all down - jeepers… iv never applied myself in this way to the subject but Im coming to see that Usability is a rather big and complex topic!

Maybe a 'Usability Bible' is a bit much to ask for!? :D

Edited by saschaeh, 21 July 2008 - 01:52 PM.


#22 pleeker

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 07:05 PM

Every time I want to answer one of the questions in this thread, Donna takes the words right out of my mouth. :(

I would love a modern, 2008 version of a Usability Checklist, because the ones I've found online recently seem a bit old. I would expect the basic version of the list to be free (like my "How to SEO Your Site in 60 Minutes" article), and perhaps the more detailed and full version could be a paid product (as I've considered doing).

Or, in other words ... what Donna said. :)

#23 A.N.Onym

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 11:08 PM

I'd enjoy something very, very advanced, like the subtle changes that go against your subjective opinion. A good example of those would be the "Predictably Irrational" book and a blog.



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