April 6th, 2009 | 2 Comments
Even as the excellent Usability Week kicks off in Washington, D.C. this week, I’m thinking that web usability doesn’t get much respect. It’s like the offensive lineman that opens the holes for the superstar running back.
There are good people telling us about web usability, but not enough designers are listening. The gospel preached by the Nielsen Norman Group and Steve Krug is not mystical – it’s based on real studies with real people.
Still, web designers go on making life miserable for people visiting their sites. Why? They want the coolest site on the planet, even if the intro screen makes us wait 30 seconds. And who cares about visitors? What do they know about great design anyway?
Well, we might not know design, but we do know frustration. And how not to return to a web site where we’ve had a bad experience. Like the site of the small record label I want to support, but which continually makes me wait more than a minute to go from one page to another or doesn’t send me access to my password when I forget it. Or, the online magazine that makes me navigate through multiple links in order to increase its page views. Or, the major newspaper that doesn’t make it easy for me to subscribe to a blog.
Jakob Nielsen’s recent study of 20 high-traffic sites showed improvement over past years, but still 80 percent had page download times of 19 seconds or more. Nielsen sets eight seconds as a tolerable level for page download. So, usability isn’t anywhere near where it should be, given the fact that for most companies the web site is the face of their entire business.
While designers fiddle, web consumers burn, taking their money to companies whose websites show them a little respect.
What website practices cause you frustration? At what point do you abandon a site? Who does usability well?