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Walking in Your End-User's Moccasins  

:: Tuesday, March 22, 2005 ::

There's a Native American lesson about the way to truly understand someone else's perspective, where they say you must walk in someone else's mocassins first before you can know what's like to be them.

"Do not judge your neighbor until you walk two moons in his moccasins." - Cheyenne

While it may have been fanatical of user experience and human factors industry folks to be so concerned with every nuance of your beingness, it would appear as though this passion is leaking into the general web design populace. Take the recent discovery by Jeffrey Zeldman in Userism. He found user wants in high demand by designers.

"When I think back to the many bleeding-edge CSS, DHTML, and Flash presentations I’ve seen or participated in over the years, the motivation was inevitably, “How hard can I push Flash?” or “How many objects can I move on this page?” or “What else can I show you in Firefox that won’t work in IE?”

It was never, “What would the user like?”

Yet in The Flash vs. HTML Game Show, designers with cutting edge skills were more interested in creating great user experiences than in manipulating their chosen technology for its own sake. Nobody on the panel and nobody in the audience thought twice about this user orientation. That is a profound change, and I hope it continues to spread."

I noticed the same thing at the recent Search Engine Strategies Conference in New York City. Every one of the top search engines representatives kept saying things like "We're working on the usability" or "We want to design for what our customers want and need" or "We're watching how people search for things so we can give them what they want."

What They Want, When They Want It

I ordered a new Internet software application today, online. It's a popular brand. It's not cheap. As I was going through the purchase process, on the screen where I was entering my client information, there was an opportunity to sign up for a newsletter in the right side navigation.

What an odd time to make me stop what I'm doing, credit card in hand, ready to commit to a software license, to sign up for a newsletter? I was interested, but I wondered, if I stop to fill out this newsletter form, do I have to go back and start all over again with filling out their software order form?

When I got near the end of the purchase, I began printing pages. You see, I learned a long time ago to be cautious with online shopping. Some shopping carts don't tell you when you're about the reach the end or when you've arrived at the last chance to print important information. So, three pages before I got to the end, I was printing. I was unsure which page I would need to verify my order because the web site never instructed me on what the company wanted me to print.

And computers were supposed to help us save trees!

For better conversions, here is another Native American proverb:

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I'll understand." - Tribe unknown

:: posted by Kim Krause Berg on 3/22/2005 05:21:00 PM

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