by Debra Chamra
As the holiday season approaches and we don the holiday bedazzled attire that we wouldn’t normally be caught dead in but wear happily to see those thoughtful gift givers smile, I find myself thinking of the impact of a positive User Experience. “User Experience?,” you ask bewildered. Yes, User Experience and Christmas carols (it’s a holiday thing). But let me explain using my holiday sweater – you can stop laughing you know you’ve got one too. My holiday sweater goes beyond festive with its reindeer appliqués against that wonderful pine green cotton – and the bells, let’s not forget those wonderful tinkling creations. Now, when I put on that sweater, I feel like a dork – which is a negative user experience. If someone had paid attention to his gift receiving audience, that sweater would be cashmere and bell-free – a definite positive user experience. Further, think of the financial impact of the sweater incident. Because the sweater does not fit the taste of the recipient, it sits in a box in the attic just waiting to be regifted or set on fire. It isn’t realizing its potential return. And if I can apply such measures to my holiday sweater, think of the impact of Web user experience during this time of year when dissatisfaction is not expressed through storage boxes but dropped shopping carts – a time when Jupiter Research is forecasting that online holiday retail sales will reach $17 billion, a 21 percent increase over 2002.
With that in mind and my recent need to set all thought patterns to carols, let’s explore Twelve Days to a Positive User Experience.
1. On the first day of the pre-holiday preparatory season, my Web fairy sent to me…a wake-up call on user experience.
• 45% of users abandon Web sites with poor navigability, slow response times and confusing content.
• 35% of users who experience problems on a particular site leave that site for a competitor’s site.
• 52% of companies make no attempt to measure whether users are successful in finding what they want.
• Conversion rates can be increased by 40% by improving the user experience on e-commerce sites.
• Product-development cycles can be reduced by 33-50% by incorporating usability engineering methods.
So how do we create a positive user experience? Remember this mantra: User experience should be useful, usable, and satisfying. As you assess, architect, and measure the real experience of your users, you will craft better user experience…which leads to more value…which leads to increased profitability.
2. On the second day of the pre-holiday preparatory season, my Web fairy sent to me…Krug’s Second Law of Usability.
Steve Krug, a respected usability consultant and author of Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, offers straightforward solutions to the most fundamental Internet design problems.
Krug’s Second Law of Usability states, “It doesn’t matter how many times I have to click, as long as each click is a mindless, unambiguous choice.”
Over the years, web designers and usability professionals have debated over the number of clicks you can expect users to perform to get to what they want without getting too frustrated. Krug suggests it is not the number of clicks that matters, but rather how hard each click is – the amount of thought required, and the amount of uncertainty about whether or not the right choice is made. Users do not mind many clicks as long as each click is painless and they have continued confidence that they are on the right track.
General rule of thumb: “Three mindless, unambiguous clicks equal one click that requires thought.”
3. On the third day of the pre-holiday preparatory season, my Web fairy sent to me…Krug’s Third Law of Usability.
Krug’s Third Law of Usability states, “Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.”
There is a magnitude of words on today’s Web sites that are just taking up space, because no one is ever going to read them. These needless words often make Web sites seem more daunting than they actually are.
The benefits of omitting needless words include:
• Reduction of the noise level on the page
• Increased prominence of useful content
• Reduction in page length, allowing users to see more of each page at a glance without scrolling
4. On the fourth day of the pre-holiday preparatory season, my Web fairy sent to me…four users for iterative usability testing.
In the beginning, usability testing was a very expensive proposition – using eight or more testers and a usability lab. It has since been shown that fewer testers and the absence of a formal lab can yield the same, or better, results at a much lower price tag. In fact, the ideal number of users for each round of testing is more like three or four. The key is iteration. The first users are very likely to encounter all of the most significant problems in the first round of testing. These problems can then be fixed before the second round of testing allowing the users to uncover a new set of problems.
Test. Revise, Repeat.
5. On the fifth day of the pre-holiday preparatory season, my Web fairy sent to me…five debunked excuses for testing.
“We don’t have the time.”
Done right usability testing saves time, because rework at the end of the project will be virtually eliminated.
“We don’t have the money.”
Lean usability testing has shaved thousands off of the cost established by traditional testing.
“We don’t have the expertise.”
All usability tests produce useful results, no matter how poorly it was conducted.
“We don’t have a usability lab.”
You don’t need one. All you need is an uninterruptible room with a computer.
“We wouldn’t know how to interpret the results.”
This is the trickiest part of usability testing and once again, lean usability testing has made usability experts affordable.
Hmm. Days six through twelve are fading quickly. And let’s all admit it – no one remembers past the fifth day in the original song anyways.
But seriously, creating a positive user experience is not a laughing matter. It is about creating business value through leveraging metrics, heuristics, usability testing, copywriting, information architecture, interface design, information design, workflow, and cross-platform compatibility. In sum, making your site or application useful, usable, and satisfying as well as so compelling that users return to it or continue using it can build long-standing, profitable relationships with your clients and customers.
And because everyone needs something to read on the way to Grandmother’s house, we have compiled a list of a few of our favorite reads for you…Happy Holidays.
How Buildings Learn
by Stewart Brand
About Face 2.0: The Essentials of Interaction Design
by Alan Cooper
Back to the User
by Tammy Sachs and Gary McClain
Cascading Style Sheets: Separating Content from Presentation
by Owen Briggs, Steven Champeon, Eric Costello, and Matt Peterson
Designing with Web Standards
by Jeffrey Zeldman
Don’t Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
by Steve Krug
The Art and Science of Web Design
by Jeffrey Veen
The Elements of User Experience
by Jesse James Garrett
The Universal Traveler
by Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall
Unix Power Tools
by Shelley Powers, Jerry Peek, Tim O’Reilly, and Mike Loukides
Web Site Usability: A Designer’s Guide
by Jared M. Spool
Web Design on a Shoestring
by Carrie Bickner
Debra Chamra is the Chief Financial Officer for hesketh.com/inc., the region’s first User Experience firm specializing in Web technology. Debra is completing her MBA with concentrations in Electronic Commerce, Operations and Supply Chain Management, and Marketing at NC State University and has earned her MHA from UNC at Chapel Hill. Company Web site: www.hesketh.com.
- World Usability Day is Nov 14th! Viva la user-centric revolution!
- A Business Case for User Experience Design
- Why I’m writing a primer on user experience design
- The Year of the User
- Best gifts for your website this Christmas (infographic)
© 2003, TechJournal. All rights reserved.