Friday, October 23, 2009

Usability and Usability Professionals

The next presentation at this KM peer group meeting was on web design and usability. I've found myself doing a fair amount of work that implicates usability, as one of my firm's main methods of providing information is through its intranet and KM has a role to play in some aspects of that intranet.

People who are involved with usability might be called visual designers, interaction designers, information architects, or user experience researchers. The real value is in combining these roles.

Identifying pain points becomes more anthropological.

People who are good at usability need to:
  • Not mind asking dumb questions
  • Be fascinated with human behavior
  • Focus on task, try to keep people who aren't actually end-users from interfering
  • Customer service oriented
  • Eye for detail
  • Enjoy complex problem-solving
If 80% of your audience is satisfied with what you build, you can withstand the 20% with gripes.

Design mistakes:
  • Filling all white space
  • When in doubt add News
  • "Useful Links" or even "Very Useful Links"
  • Equating "easy to build" with "easy to use"; usability must be balanced with ease of design
  • Equating you with your audience; avoid by getting proximity and facetime with users

Good design approaches:

  • Research first
  • Build prototypes through web applications such as AXURE--more than wireframes; can make entirely clickable sites
  • NPS score-a subjective means of providing quantitative information. Ask likelihood that someone will recommend that site. Do before and after measurements.
  • Personas
  • Card-sorting-- put names of pages on index cards and ask users how pages should be organized (or use Optimal Sorting)
  • User testing

1 comment:

Andrew Davis said...


I agree that usability is key. I particularly liked:

1. Equating "easy to build" with "easy to use". Great usability is really hard. That's why people happily pay more for Apple products.

2. Equating you with your audience. We have this problem with some of our projects. We do document assembly. Our corporate clients' end users are non-lawyers, but the in-house lawyers help draft the questions to be answered by the end users. The lawyers and the end users have very different ideas on what makes a good question. The lawyers want belt-and-braces legalese, while end users want short, simple commercial questions. The lawyers usually win.