dealing with the Big Boss Man

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Krug, ch. 12

So you finally get this web usability thing down, and then an evil boss pops out from around your cubicle corner and ruins everything! Just kidding.  But according to Krug, there are two major issues that can sometimes arise from an authority figure, even if they have the best of intentions.  Bosses usually suggest: 1) requesting too much personal information from users or 2) ineffective pizazz design elements. 

Both of these issues remind me of a recent visit to one of my favorite sites, (the website for the food channel.)  Just a few days ago I signed up for an online newsletter that sends Christmas cookie recipes to your e-mail (I know, I'm a 70 year old woman living in a 20 year old body....) and I was impressed that the registration was quick and painless.  All I had to do was enter my name and verify my e-mail address.  The simplicity of the process definitely helped me think better of the site.

Unfortunately, however, the site has also recently undergone a total design make-over...for the worse.  The design is notably fancier and conveys a more stream-lined image, but the site just isn't as user-friendly.  I miss the old one!  This site loads slower (a big disadvantage when my main action is using a search engine to look up recipes) and is almost too streamlined; there doesn't seem to be any visual hierarchy at all!  Everything is on the same level and nothing draws my attention first.  Plus, they seem to have re-organized some information and I can no longer find information that used to be easily accessible.  For example, full cook times for recipes are now hidden in a drop-down menu and a section titled "recipes from the same episode" is now hidden in a tabbed sub-section. 

So my feelings are pretty close to what Krug describes in one of his mock e-mails: "Most of the time on the Web, people don't want to be engaged; they just want to get something done, and attempts to engage them that interfere with their current mission are perceived as annoying, clueless, and the worst kind of hucksterism." (184)

I don't know if this redesign came from the request of a CEO or a designer, but I can't help but wonder if they did any usability testing for their new site. 


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Andy Lonigro said:

Jackie, I know what you mean. I don't understand why sometimes people think things that are more complicated are better. They really aren't. I'm not familiar with the site you're talking about, but to me it sounds like by trying to make a site look "newer" or more "professional" or "complicated" they only make it harder for their regular users to navigate. I realize that in some cases there is need for major reconstruction, but usability testing is a key to having a usable web site, so why not use it? Perhaps the site you're mentioning did, but it's ibviously not effective, in your opinion at least.

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