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Don't Tell Me I Need Usability Without Explaining How  

:: Thursday, August 11, 2005 ::

Here's more proof that SEO/SEM folks are interested in the web site usability part of marketing.

This article, by StepForth Placement's Jim Hedger, is getting a lot of exposure - Website Usability Leads to Conversions, though its another one of those articles that says, essentially, "You have to make your web site more usable but I'm not going to give you the exact details on how to do this."

I do this sometimes in my own articles too and I'm not proud of it. In fact, I'm frustrated for my readers because terms like "learnability", "engagability", "memorability", "satisfaction" and "persuasive architecture" are vague, if not completely foreign words, when applied for use in web site design.

None of these suggested elements for success explain how to do the thing. Nobody likes to be lectured without at least taking away something productive that they can implement on their own. Yeah. I beat myself up on this stuff too. I want to do right by you, as I'm sure most thoughtful writers do.

The latest Alertbox piece from Jakob Nielsen is a case in point. In International Sites: Minimum Requirements, (a great topic by the way) he brings up a lot of important points, but there aren't examples of how to implement them. For example,
"For phone numbers, allow for international numbers containing a varying number of digits and a country code."

Not everyone who reads that piece is a programmer. Is it one long field, or better to break it up into labeled sections, for example? (Two good forms tutorials - Web Application Form Design Expanded and Web Application Form Design)

It's one thing (and not a bad one!) to read up on making usable web site or web application user interfaces. I'm also happy to see articles and blog posts that support usability. But, I also think a lot of people are bored to tears with us telling them what to do but not how to do it.

To be fair (to myself, so I don't stick my head in the oven for failing you), I make a hell of an effort to provide resources for your How-To-Do-Something followup. I just often forget to tell everyone I have them somewhere. So again, please feel free to plaster this somewhere useful:

1. FREE Usability Testing Center - I made checklists for you, to get some of the basics down.

2. Usability Industry Research - I'm always adding to it

3. User Interface Design Resources - Also regularly updated.

4. How to Quench Your Web Site Visitors' Thirst - 23 pages of information, checklists, tips, pointers, and resources to help you increase traffic, sales, subscriptions, and return visits.

5. An 80 Points User Interface checklist for Ecommerce web sites (Though readers say any type site can benefit.)

Incidently, this is in no way intended to mean Jim's article isn't a recommended and well-written piece. His Stepforth SEO Blog has a well established link in my more blog section. (And, I'm picky about whom I put there.)

Still Recess

Organic SEO meets McDonald's SPAM...Scottie's Spamming and McDonald's Analogy, Can we save people who don't want to be saved?. SEO's get introspective.

And, Ooohh! Another sex (sells) scandal brewing for the Search Engine Strategies Conference tour?
"While I don't mind nearly naked dancers, it certainly isn't what I was expecting at an SES show."

Source: Drunk in San Jose. Sorry I missed that party, Rand.

By the way, congratulations to John Rhodes, who has had a tough time with technical changes for WebWord lately, but the much-loved site is back and better than ever. Welcome back!

:: posted by Kim Krause Berg on 8/11/2005 12:55:00 PM

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