Usability, Likability, Accessibility

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Chapter 9

"Usability testing has been around for a long time, and the basic idea is pretty simple: If you want to know whether your software or your Web site or your VCR remote control is easy enough to use, watch some people while they try to use it and note where they run into trouble." - Steve Krug, Don't Make Me Think

Well that's it in a nutshell.  This chapter finally tackled the nuts and bolts of usability testing; if the chapters up to this point discussed to need for and common issues in usability, Chapter 9 put the theories into practice.  And I like that Krug took the perspective of "Lost our lease, going-out-of-business-sale usability testing," because many corporations who are in need of usability testing don't have the financial means or perhaps the financial willingness to commit to outside usability testing materials, facilities and experts. 

Krug gave many helpful details on how to plan, set-up, implement and review a usability test in a corporate, do-it-yourself atmosphere.  But what I mainly took away is the idea of testing early and testing often.  He even suggested testing rough sketches of web sites.  The illustration on page 139 really pointed out the logic behind this approach as well.  Even if you test more people during one test, you'll yield a greater number of issues if you test a smaller number of people more than once.  Krug highlighted this fact again and again in his disclaimers on using more expensive usability testing tools; use them, he said, if you have the money and if they will not prevent you from doing more testing.

Chapter 10

"I've always found it useful to imagine that every time we enter a Web site, we start out with a reservoir of goodwill.  Each problem we encounter on the site lowers the level of that reservoir."

This quote, and really the whole chapter, reminded me of a marketer's approach to and opinion of a corporate web site.  As I understand it, many marketers consider websites as another medium for expressing a company's image, reputation, goals and products; marketers consider website's primary function promotion of what Krug calls "good will."  (This also relates to ch. 9 and the said tendency of marketers to substitute usability testing with focus group testing.) This is all true, but sometimes marketers don’t see their idea of goodwill and issues of usability as directly connected, or even connected at all.  Krug's personal experience and frustration with the airline website does a good job of showing how these two ideas are in fact connected: Krug used the site to try to find information and the site failed him, which not only frustrated him but succeeded in devaluing the company in his eyes.  Krug puts in best when he says "Their brand - which they spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year polishing - had definitely lost some of its luster to me."  Now if that doesn't speak to a marketer, I'm not sure what will!

Chapter 11

"How many opportunities do we have to dramatically improve people's lives just by doing our job a little better?"

I have to be honest, when I started reading this chapter I didn't know what "accessibility" Krug was referring to.  I assumed accessibility was synonymous with usability, so I was kind of confused.  The world of the web use for the disabled had never even occurred to me; but I of course quickly realize that this is an issue that applies to so many people on such a fundamental level.  However, then I was left thinking a question similar to the one quoted above.  If web designers have the ability to make web sites assessable for everyone, why wouldn't they do it?!  The extra workload and the inability to identify with the issue at all (like me) are reasons Krug cites, which are someone plausible I guess.  But come on, this issue boils down to something at a basic human level, beyond web design and corporate pressure.  Like Krug says, "it's profoundly the right thing to do, because one argument for accessibility that doesn't get made nearly often enough is how extraordinarily better it makes some people's lives." 


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Jed Fetterman said:

I never really put too much thought into it, but I know of times when I have lost interest in a company because of their website. I don't think of a website as reflecting on the company, but the website is in contact with the consumer almost as much as products themselves. Maybe even more so. So what the website does or does not do, directly reflects onto the company.

Daniella Choynowski said:

It is best to test often. Once a set of changes are implemented, an entirely new set of usability issues may arise.

I wonder if these corporate sites like Nike do weekly usability testing, because they seem to update weekly. I bet they don't. Corporations have so much more to worry about that they may push usability testing in the back of the closet of prioities. Little do they know that by not testing their sites, these companies may be losing many potential customers.

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