Posted Sunday, November 12, 2006 10:37:59 PM by Stephanie
Usability has become quite the hot topic. Seems it's on everyone's lips of late. If it interests you, I'd like to bring a couple things to your attention.
First, Tuesday, November 14th is Worldwide Usability Day. There are 206 events in 39 countries this year. That's pretty impressive. Find a usability event near you. One of the interesting activities you can participate in no matter where you live is card sorting. From their site:
"Card sorting is a technique used to help identify how users organize, and expect to find, information on a website. The way the cards are sorted, and the labels the users give the cards are often used (along with other methods) to create the global and local navigation on a website."
Participants will take about 20 minutes to go through the card sorting exercise and demographic survey. The information will then be analyzed to look at regional, cultural, and other demographic differences, and shared with the usability community. You need to RSVP by Monday, November 13th to have the information emailed to you about participating.
The second bit of usability info that you may find interesting is related to a new, excellent book. It's written by Robert Hoekman Jr., called "Designing the Obvious: A Common Sense Approach to Web Application Design." I know Robert well, and he's passionate about usability, customer loyalty and just using common sense (which we all know isn't always so common). I've turned to Robert myself at times to look at larger web rollouts and he always has something helpful to say. And yes, once he says it, it's quite obvious. I've nearly finished the book and plan on writing a review on it here at Community MX in the near future. But I can already tell you, you need it. If you do anything web-based, you want it.
Robert is currently working on making GoDaddy a more usable place. This week, I went to GoDaddy to renew a few client domains -- I was shocked (in a really good way) at the new interface when I logged into my account area. It rocks! Pared down, everything at my fingertips, sexy. Thanks Robert!
Posted Monday, November 06, 2006 9:00:10 PM by Zoe Gillenwater
In my last post, I complained about sites that pop up windows and take away my menu bar so I can't print. Tonight I found the perfect Firefox extension to stop this annoying scripting: Unhide Menubar. It keeps scripts from ever hiding the menu bar, ever. I've already put it to use to print out my flight confirmation through Orbitz.
Posted Monday, November 06, 2006 10:35:50 AM by Zoe Gillenwater
Why do so many sites that insist on opening popup windows also insist on taking away my menu bar when they do so? Sometimes it makes sense, such as in my Yahoo Music player that pops up. But other times it seems to only be done for its own sake, and it's really annoying.
Last month was the annual enrollment period for health care spending accounts, dental insurance, vision insurance, and several other benefits programs offered by the State of North Carolina, which I work for. This year, they offered an online enrollment option for the first time. However, the web site they created solely for this purpose (they already have a couple other web sites, and I have no idea why they didn't make this new site simply part of the old sites...but I digress) was awful. The navigation was very unclear and hard to use.
When I went to enroll, the site insisted on popping up a new window with all of my toolbars stripped away, including the menu bar. Why? This didn't help me in any way that I could see. The enrollment process was just a series of forms and text-based pages — in short, nothing that couldn't be presented in a regular web page as part of the rest of the site. Perhaps they didn't want me to click any links other than the form buttons that navigated me through the enrollment process? If that was the case, why not just strip the nav menu out of the enrollment pages, and just leave me in the regular site?
I can handle a popup window, as much as it annoys me, as long as it doesn't hamper my work. This one, however, did. When I finally enrolled, I clicked on their printer-friendly version link. This opened another popup window. I expected it to automatically bring up a printer dialog box, since I couldn't access File > Print to do it myself. Instead, the new popup told me to hit the Print Screen button to print the page. But the PrtScn button doesn't actually print — it takes a screenshot! I had no way to print my page. Why had they decided to hide the menu bar from me? What harm would it have been to include it? What benefit did they get from it that was so important it was worth completely wrecking the user-experience for me and preventing me from printing?
Ironically, after I finished my enrollment, they presented me with a feedback form, "in order to ensure that www.ncflexonline.org provides the ability to meet your needs." However, the comment fields they provided only allowed 256 characters, which is only a couple sentences worth of comments, and not nearly enough to convey my dissatisfaction. I suggest that if they really want to create sites that meet their users' needs that they employ extensive usability testing before launching a site, instead of taking surveys afterwards that never appear to be acted on.
After this frustrating user experience, I went straight to userscripts.org to find a Greasemonkey script to override all those sites that try to take my menu bar away from me. Alas, no such script exists on this site. I beg someone to write one and let me know about it! Or, if anyone knows any other tricks to get the menu bar, or other toolbars, back, please let me know that as well!