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There is No Reason For Web Site Usability. None. Nada.  

:: Wednesday, February 22, 2006 ::

I hate to think I have a brain-lock on web site usability, but when someone requests help for a student dissertation on "anti-usability" in a Usability Forum, and finds support for the very idea, I'm standing at full attention.

The thread is called Anti - Usability Literature for a dissertation, and the student seeking help is from the UK (not that location matters on this question, or does it?) She asks:

"I am in my last year of my degree course studying Business Information Systems. I am writing a dissertation on the importance of website usability and proving that a website can be usable as well as "pretty". However, I am having trouble finding some literature regarding those who are opposed to the use of usability (apart from usabilitymustdie.com). Does any body have any ideas?"

One of my favorite resident "Devil's Advocate" members chirped right up, followed by another member who has some interesting comments on why accessbility testing is a pain in the neck. For starters, he wonders, who in the heck has a screen reader at ready to test their sites?

I don't think you need a screenreader to prove your site is accessible. There are too many simulators and guidelines available to cover the basics. For a site that must meet standards for specific legal requirements (such as Section 508), you can bet it would be worth hiring formal testing. But, for most of us, there are resources and places like the Web Site Accessibility Blog and Web Credible to help us learn enough to create courteous web sites for all types visitors.

Don't Mention the Word "Timeline"

For software usability, this is where I can really relate to the anti-usability grump party. Try telling management that a deadline won't be met because QA testing, which often includes some kind of usability testing or user testing, isn't finished yet. Oh, how they hate that.

And, then there's the expense of usability testing. To which I say, "Sheesh, have you even LOOKED at these usability evaluation prices?"

Depending on the size of your company, web site and goals for the site, an investment in usability is so worth it - even if the investment you make is simply time to learn. Jared Spool and his team at UIE often write about large site redesigns and the lessons learned. Jakob Nielsen compiles guidelines based on all types of research.

The point is, there are already some key industry experts doing the work and other companies are paying THEM for it. All you need to do is read their case studies, articles and blogs and apply what fits in with your own requirements.

I'm not saying "don't test". If you don't know what to look for, there are usability checklists and usability checklists for conversions and free guidelines and checklists available in any search engine.

Do you think usability isn't necessary for web sites or is a hassle akin to say, picking onions out of your salad?

Your opinions and help are welcome in Anti - Usability Literature for a dissertation

About to Hit The Road Again

If I disappear from the blog again, and you miss me, I'll be at the Search Engine Strategies Seminar in New York City. I'm heading up on Sunday and plan on leaving late Tuesday night. My goal, as usual, is to spy on all the famous SEO folks and write up some news and review pieces. Why would a usability consultant want to do this? Well, I started out in the SEO biz, so I understand their language. But more importantly, the search engine marketing industry is getting pretty chummy with the user centered design industry, and vice versa.

When a company works with an SEO/M or web designer that offers usability and accessibility services, there's an even stronger chance for a holistic approach to design - and the increase in revenue that follows never hurts either.

:: posted by Kim Krause Berg on 2/22/2006 03:58:00 PM

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