use it, or not
By Tim Caynes on Mar 23, 2009
It occurred to me while reading Paul Boag's 10 things a web designer would never tell you, that there are a number of things I've never told you. They were mainly the things in his list, but accompanied by a cultural caveat that stated I'm English, specifically, from dead-pan capital of the east, Norwich, so anything I might write down here that might apparently be totally, like, lame, I've actually written post-modern ironically, which means that any statement of fact that I make that you consider simply ridiculous, is, in fact, a joke. Its just that I deliver it straight. Which is difficult enough when I deliver it face-to-face, but when it's rendered in a <div>, then it often goes horribly wrong.
Suffice to say that on reading Paul's list, I'm particularly struck by number 3. Not because I necessarily subscribe to the argument that user testing is an expensive conspiracy prolapsed by some clandestine web design coven in order to prolong delivery (you see how straight I'm delivering that), but because I really dislike useit.com. Of course its probably the most well-respected usability site of all and has mucho gravitas amongst the online design community (he even knows where my eyes are looking. right now!), but, oh, I just can't look at it. Its not so much that there is just so much valuable, rich, meaningful content there on that home page that it makes me hyperventilate at the thought of actually having to read some of it, or even the fact that when I do get to read it, I'm mildly troubled by it being more statement of fact than informed conjecture. Its worse than that. I don't like yellow. And that high frequency colour spectrum opposite polarity yellow-blue split-screen thing makes my eyes go all stereogrammatical and gives me a headache. Oh, and there's no pictures. That alone makes my healing brush finger twitch. Am I wrong?
That is, of course, just something that affects me. I think. Thankfully, the team that delivers the sun.com experience is a very broad church and amongst us walk many much more professional and qualified experts who actually understand, subscribe to, and put into practice the very things that he who shall be called Jakob Nielsen imparts. That's one of the reasons why sun.com conistently ranks so highly in independent usability evaluations (from folks such as SiteIQ) - because we engage early with stakeholders, customers and our extended communites to get that critical knowledge that keeps us informed. We also continue those relationships with ongoing studies, surveys and evaluations, so that we don't get complacent. Its easy to evaluate usability on a specific project while you're in the design and build phase, and then just forget all about it once you move to deploy and maintain. You've already tested it right? You don't need to test it again after it goes live, surely? We're guilty of that on sun.com, and its one of the things we're trying to focus on right now. So if we ask you for feedback, or drop you the occasional survey when you're visiting sun.com, we'd be delighted if you'd spare the time to let us know what we're doing right or wrong. It doesn't take long, and hopefully it will help us to help you.
That last bit wasn't a joke, by the way.
Listening Post: Ladyhawke: My Delirium