The Usability Review
Scott Barnard is the founder of The Usability Review and the mobile website RememberStuff.com. He has over a decade of experience in information architecture and user experience design. Get in touch with Scott if you’d like to hire him to consult on web, mobile app, or desktop application design at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Web Site: http://www.theusabilityreview.com
Bio: Scott Barnard is the founder of The Usability Review and RememberStuff.com. After earning 2 degrees from MIT, he transplanted to the San Francisco Bay Area where he had a front row seat to the dot com boom and bust and the subsequent growth in importance of web, mobile and desktop application designs to the everyday activities of businesses and consumers alike. Get in touch with Scott if you'd like to hire him to consult on web, mobile app, or desktop application design at email@example.com.
Posts by sbarnard:
- Online ad spend lags consumer behavior by five years.
- Brands act like the Internet is a printing press.
- Agencies don’t know what their customers’ goals are.
- Heavy Social Media Users: people who spend an average of 26% of their online time on Social Media
- Medium Social Media Users: people who spend an average of 4.1% of their online time on Social Media
- Light Social Media Users: people who spend an average of 0.42% on Social Media users
Mary Meeker has published her newest internet trends report. It is always a great, informative read:
A couple of weeks ago, I posted about how the competition between Google and Facebook is improving the feature sets available to users:
Quick Hit: Facebook Boosts Photo Resolution, Size
In that case, it was that Facebook was improving it’s photo resolution similar to what Google+ had made available via Picasa. Today we see that Facebook has now released another feature called Smart Lists:
Facebook rolling out ‘smart lists’ of friends
This functionality automatically sorts friends into groups where posts and news can be targeted to them. It appears that this is very similar to Google+ Circles feature which manually allows you to put friends into groups.
Isn’t competition great?
I just read this article on Yahoo and this is a much needed improvement to facebook:Facebook boosts photo resolution, size.
I’m curious if this is a direct result of the launch of Google plus. Google’s Picasa photo software web integration allows users on Google plus to have much better photo resolution that Facebook ever had. I wonder if their next step is to make it easier to share with certain circles of friends like Google has rather than blast everyone’s wall.
In his recent Forbes article “$250B Lost? Brands Are Still Getting Online Ads Wrong,” George John argues that brands lose billions of dollars every year because of the following:
I think this is an interest article that makes some great points. I would add one more item to his list: “Agencies create ads that people won’t look at due to banner blindness”
Too many companies and organizations still try to put important information in big, bright images as Jakob Nielsen points out in his article on Banner Blindness. As usability professionals and those of us who watch users on websites on a regular basis, it is clear how very little people notice banner ads. I can’t imagine the impact this has in ad spending; potential customers lost because of the 100 people who visited a web page, only 0.5 clicked your ad…and probably only 5-10 people, at most, saw it.
Some companies have made strides, though. E*trade, for example, consistently has a banner with 1 bold headline and 1 key call to action.
It’s noticeable and actionable. Also, notice howthe headline is right aligned on the ad so it is much closer to the login box where most repeat users eyes will be going. Very smart design. Google is also another great example. Simple blue links along the right side of each search results page.
I wonder how much more successful the online ad industry would be if people designed ads that worked?
I just read this article from Forbes that had some interesting data about heavy social media users versus medium and light social media users:
In the article, the author classifies these users as breaking down like this:
The basic outcome of the article questions whether investing heavily in social media is really worth it considering that people who are not heavy users spend more online and spend more per online purchase:
This is a very interesting question. But I think we need a couple more data points. It would be really interesting to see this data plotted against age. My guess is that far more heavy users are age 25 or less. This group probably has far less disposable income resulting in fewer and smaller purchases. Normalizing this data along those lines might provide us with some other interesting conclusions. The other thing this data does not provide is whether any of the information compels someone to purchase offline. Some people will obviously be more comfortable talking to someone in a store, even after doing research online, especially with product with which they are somewhat inexperienced or unfamiliar.
So, as you may have heard, Netflix recently had some pricing changes that caused an uproar amongst its customers. I happen to be Netflix subscriber and I am definitely peeved by their actions. Not so much because of the price increase, but because of the way they did it and the new options they are offering.
I consider Netflix to have a great user experience both on their website and on their TV interface. They always come up with great new approaches to things and their former VP came up with some unique and effective ways to document the very detailed interactions they use (see Capturing the Interesting Moments). However, they erred greatly in the recent options they offered and it shows they were not completely thinking through how their actions affect their customers.
Previously, Netflix allowed you to stream any of its content online or on your TV AND receive 1 DVD at a time through the mail for about $10/month. Now, there are 3 options under their new pricing:
- Receive one DVD at a time by mail for $8/month(no more streaming)
- Stream videos online for $8/month (no mailing of DVDs)
- Get both streaming and one DVD at a time for $16/month
The most important thing to know about the above options is that you can get virtually any DVD by mail whereas the selection of DVDs that can be streamed is far more limited.
This last point is the most un-user-friendly thing I have ever seen Netflix do. Let’s re-examine those options to understand why. Option 1 allows you a great selection, but at the incredible inconvenience (compared to streaming instantly) of waiting several days. Option 2 allows you instant access, but not to all the movies that you will want to see. The last option allows you to pay 60% more for what you had yesterday for 60% less. In other words, your options are:
- Wait for several days at all times for your movies
- Stream some movies you like but completely cut a whole bunch of others out of the realm of possibility
- Pay way more
None of those options are attractive because with #1 you are going back to past history; with #2 is a severe limitation on a choice that you have always had with Netflix in the past of having access to virtually all movies; and, #3 is not very nice either…thinking healthcare-company-style gouging here.
Perhaps what Netflix did not think about, as well, is the fact that many of their customers have made significant investments in physical products that will allow them to stream content directly to their TVs. In fact, I made sure when I bought a new TV that is would be wireless-enabled and be able to stream Netflix movies. So, not only am I paying more for my TV, but now that choice could be moot if I choose not to use Netflix any more. Or I can pay $72/year more to maintain my status quo in terms of Netflix service.
Overall, this was severely disappointing from a company that I have been a huge proponent of for a long time. I emailed their CEO and Investor Relations group to let them know about that disappointment but I doubt I will hear back. Either way, it’s a good example of how a company may not have considered all angles of its product offering and the effect it would have on the physical hardware investment of its customers.
Recently, I decided to upgrade my server for The Usability Review and my other sites. I have been using www.1and1.com for a long time and have been quite satisfied with them. So, I ended up choosing a dynamic cloud server package from them and went through the sign up process. During that process, they offered to buy a domain for me and then they offered Norton virus protection. Finally, I got to the sign up page after choosing my country. There I encountered a strange field pictured below.
If you take a look specifically at the phone field, it looks like this:
Now, the odd part about this form field starts with the “/” character separating the first half of the field from the second half. I have never seen a slash character used to separate a phone number. If you remember, I mentioned that on the page prior, I had selected my country from the following field:
This made me wonder if the phone number field was some sort of international code. I had no idea what the international code for the US was. The second thing that threw me off was how wide the first field was. It couldn’t be a field for the first 3 digits I thought.
So, my conclusion was to enter my full phone number with area code in the field on the right. Of course, this was wrong. This was just a standard field where they wanted you to put the area code in the first field and the rest of the number in the second field. It was baffling to me how much thought I had to put into something as simple as entering my phone number.
This form field is clearly a violation of the basic premise of the book “Don’t Make Me Think.” It is also a great example of how context is incredibly important. If I hadn’t just come from selecting my country in the step prior, I probably wouldn’t have even thought of country code and would have filled the field out correctly.
Recently I have been working on an article (not yet posted) to help organizations choose a web or application design agency/consultant. One of the key sections of the article discusses some things you can do to help you evaluate an agency/consultant. Here is a few tips on choosing quality design consultants and a sneak preview of that section:
- Even if you aren’t going to do usability testing or think you can’t afford it, ask the agency/consultant if usability testing is typically recommended.
- Ask how many usability tests the person(s) have been involved with.
- Request that the user experience experts involved in your project have a great deal of experience observing usability testing.
- Get references and talk about the performance of that organization/individual’s designs post-launch.
- Ask if the company/person does any up front analysis using analytics, marketing research, and/or user research.
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Perhaps an example of how not to do your automated reply for customer service. Apparently, United.com’s entire customer service organization is on vacation.
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Since the dawn of time (or maybe only the last several centuries), the dictionary has been organized so that users can quickly scan vertical lists or words and find the page and the word that is of interest to them in quite a lengthy book. Recently, Microsoft (in all their wisdom) decided that centuries of using vertical lists to quickly scan content needed to come to an end. And, thus, the Windows 7 Control Panel became a horizontally sorted list:
Now this had to be an intentional change as there is no other reason it would suddenly change from a vertically sorted list of columns. And it is not nearly as easy to scan the list horizontally-otherwise, the dictionary would have been a bunch of horizontal rows for the past few centuries. Now, if there are 1 million Windows 7 users who have the same view of their Control Panel as the above and each one of them visits their Control Panel 5 times per year. Say on average they spend 2 more seconds looking for the appropriate control. That is 115 man days into the abyss due to one minor, poorly chosen change in convention. I’d certainly like to have 115 man days back, wouldn’t you?
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