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David Lee King

Usability Goes Halfway



me on the iphoneUsability is great – you want to have a website that’s usable, right? Lots of organizations do usability studies – even pay for them. But you know what? Usability only tells half the story. And that’s bad.

Here’s what I mean. Usability deals with traffic control – it answers things like “can they click it?” or “Do they understand the signage?” Usability tends to deal primarily with real estate – with structure (or with the “actual building”). But that’s only one part of the whole problem.

Even one of the fields that usability comes from is suspect – HCI, or Human Computer Interaction. What’s wrong here? The whole focus is on human to computer, or computer to human. I’m not always interacting with the machine anymore. When I blog, tweet, send a Facebook update … when I add a video to YouTube or a photo to Flickr … Yes, I’m interacting with “the machine” to get my stuff into my account, so it appears on the web. But I’m also interacting with the person at the other end – the viewer/reader/watcher/commenter. And to me, that interaction is the goal – not the computer interaction.

Let’s go a bit further with our websites. Start working on the whole experience – not just a tiny part of it. Think of it this way: do you want a website that is functional, or one that engages people? One that maybe even “delights?” That page is designed for the experience – not just for usability.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://librarybytes.com/ Helene

    Nicely said. ur right usability only takes you 90 degrees. the other 90 degrees is motivated by the experience – which is why people return :)

  • http://librarybytes.com Helene

    Nicely said. ur right usability only takes you 90 degrees. the other 90 degrees is motivated by the experience – which is why people return :)

  • davidleeking

    Adding something that I said earlier today on the Facebook discussion of this post:

    I’m not really meaning the “icing on the cake” type of touchy-feely experience. Think about WD-40 cans for a sec. The ones with the detachable straws worked fine – they were usable. But now that the straw is attached, it’s usable … AND I never lose the straw. That’s usability PLUS an improved experience.

    That’s what I’m getting at – don’t stop at “good enough.”

  • davidleeking

    Adding something that I said earlier today on the Facebook discussion of this post:

    I’m not really meaning the “icing on the cake” type of touchy-feely experience. Think about WD-40 cans for a sec. The ones with the detachable straws worked fine – they were usable. But now that the straw is attached, it’s usable … AND I never lose the straw. That’s usability PLUS an improved experience.

    That’s what I’m getting at – don’t stop at “good enough.”

  • http://toddchandler.blogspot.com/ Todd Chandler

    What a great way to think about your website. It’s all about the experience. Tom Peters just had a recent rant about customer service not being enough. It’s just basic hygiene, and effective retailers go beyond that and create relationships. You make a strong point that usability is the same for your website; it’s just the entry point.

  • http://toddchandler.blogspot.com/ Todd Chandler

    What a great way to think about your website. It’s all about the experience. Tom Peters just had a recent rant about customer service not being enough. It’s just basic hygiene, and effective retailers go beyond that and create relationships. You make a strong point that usability is the same for your website; it’s just the entry point.

  • http://peterbromberg.com/ Peter Bromberg

    David,

    I think you’ve made a great distinction. It’s ultimately the *customer experience* that we should be concerned with, and usability is simply one factor. Whether or not someone smiles at me when I walk through the door may be much more important to my overall customer experience than how many click-throughs it takes me to find the programming calendar on the library website. Usability simply doesn’t enter into that portion of my customer experience. At that intersection it’s more about relationship, than usability.

  • http://peterbromberg.com Peter Bromberg

    David,

    I think you’ve made a great distinction. It’s ultimately the *customer experience* that we should be concerned with, and usability is simply one factor. Whether or not someone smiles at me when I walk through the door may be much more important to my overall customer experience than how many click-throughs it takes me to find the programming calendar on the library website. Usability simply doesn’t enter into that portion of my customer experience. At that intersection it’s more about relationship, than usability.

  • http://cecily.info/ Cecily

    HCI, as a field, is dominated by engineers, which is why most of their interest is geared toward human to computer interaction. Forward-thinking HCI training programs and practitioners understand that unless you incorporate the basic tenets of experience design, you’re missing a significant part of the conversation.

  • http://cecily.info Cecily

    HCI, as a field, is dominated by engineers, which is why most of their interest is geared toward human to computer interaction. Forward-thinking HCI training programs and practitioners understand that unless you incorporate the basic tenets of experience design, you’re missing a significant part of the conversation.