Neo Insight's e-newsletter on Usability topics and techniques.
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Web 2.0 has made the big time - Google offers twenty
one million pages about it, Yahoo has a new interface for it, CIO magazine is talking
about it, and O'Reilly has a "Web
2.0 conference" for it. Wikipedia
describes Web 2.0 as referring to the "second phase of architecture
and application development for the World Wide Web". But how do
we make it usable?
These layers help us focus precisely on what users value and areas
that could be improved. The layered view also makes way for ideas
and insights that may cross layers. For instance, a hyperlink is
an "interaction mechanism",
but it can be presented many ways. Providing a better sense of where
a hyperlink will lead helps users stay focused on a task and gives
them more confidence to explorean improved "experience quality".
Designing hyperlinks in the context of Web 2.0 means that we can
entertain more options for augmenting the information provided about
a link before the user clicks on it, or even create hyperlinks on-the-fly.
applies Web 2.0 techniques to dynamically associate database information
with certain patterns it recognizes in emails or other information
systems. For example, it may recognize purchase order numbers in
the context of an email and provide additional information (extracted
from the database in real-time) when the user rolls their mouse
over each number in the email (see sample screen shot). It can also
be used to link phone numbers to address book information, dates
to calendar entries, parcel tracking numbers with status information,
These new functionalities are made possible by application programming interfaces (APIs) provided by vendors such as Google, Yahoo, and others. You may have seen some examples of overlaying real estate properties on Google maps, or using the maps to link to local restaurants, banks, etc.
Web 2.0 provides the opportunity to enrich the user experience. The challenge is trying to understand how these new capabilities can best be deployed. Our workshop on Usability challenges of new Web technologies examines these new trends, opportunities, and potential pit-falls in more depth.
The deadline for early registration in our Designing usable Web-based applications workshop has been extended to March 17th, 2006. Early registrants can save $100. Come join us and learn how to design for the special challenges of migrating applications to the Web.
We regularly use Morae in our usability testing. We find it the most cost-effective tool on the market for rapid, portable, digital testing. The Morae Recorder module records video, audio, keyboard input, mouse activity, screen text, etc. and synchronizes these data with the video recording for subsequent analysis.
The Morae Remote Viewer module lets stakeholders watch usability testing in real-time, no matter where they are. After testing, Morae Manager facilitates analysis of all user activities and supports creation of highlight videos – useful for letting everyone on the design and development team see and understand the usability issues.
We recommend you get familiar with Moraeit is a cost effective way to include user testing as part of your design cycle. If you are interested in seeing a demo of Morae in action or purchasing Morae, please give us a call at (613) 271-3001 or email us at: email@example.com.
E-commerce is becoming pervasive. Over the past four years, e-commerce retail sales have increased an average of 29% annually (US Bureau of Census, in Centre for innovative Entrepreneurship's Weekly Economic Insight, May 23, 2005).There is also growth in the number of business-to-business transactions, driven by the lower cost of conducting business on the Web. AMR Research says that "procuring direct materials via phone, fax or e-mail costs $US160-200 per transaction", whereas orders on the web cost around "$US40 per transaction".
Usability can improve the performance of e-commerce. Usability improvements increased conversion rate by 100% in a study of 863 projects by the Nielsen-Norman group; and in a "study of major e-commerce web sites", Creative Good found that "39% of shopping attempts failed due to poor navigation."
E-commerce doesn't need to be restricted to one part of a siteit can happen wherever users need it. Amazon's Web Services, with their open approach and published Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), are part of a trend to distribute the functions of e-commerce. As such, it is becoming less important where a shopping cart resides, or where a transaction is fulfilled. Barriers to entry are lowering, and flexibility is increasing, so retailers are not restricted to one e-commerce service provider. For example, a retailer might have a Yahoo Store, an eBay ProStore, bring traffic from Froogle, call reviews using Amazon's API, and call Google's API for search.
Some shoppers may make several visits, over a period of time, before deciding to buy (see Jakob Nielsen: "The Slow Tail"). The most successful sites therefore support long-term shopping needs by providing gift registries, wish lists, "send to a friend", recently-viewed items, persistent shopping carts, etc. Customers leave the shopping process for many reasonsto create an account, explore shipping options, log in, review other sites' offerings, get authorization, discuss with family and friends, etcso e-commerce sites that let users return to the last place they were shopping have a distinct advantage.
In addition, people often shop for someone elseother family members or friends, for exampleso good e-commerce sites store more than one ship-to address, and pre-fill it when the user purchases goods for that person again.
Another e-commerce trend challenging traditional retail practice is known as the "long tail." In Chris Anderson's Wired article, he says "What percentage of the top titles in an online media store will sell once a month?" Traditional wisdom in retailing says that 20% of goods generate 80% of the revenue. However, in online retailing, "the right answer is 99 percent. There is demand for nearly every one of those top titles." Anderson adds: "We're stuck in a hit-driven mindset. But the 'misses' make money, too. And there are so many more of them, that [the revenue] can add up quickly."
And finally, let's look at how Craigslist is redefining online business models. It's basically a simple and (mostly) free online classified-ad service running in 190 cities, but the New York Magazine (article "A Guy Named Craig") says it is "destroying classified revenues for big-city newspapers." They suggest that what may be the most revolutionary aspect of Craig's list is that "It took what had long been defined as a profitable industryclassifiedsand demonstrated that it is not much of a business at all, but is rather what open-source advocates call 'a commons,' a public service where people can find one another with minimal intervention from their minders."
Even so, they point out that the revenues
from the tiny portion of ads Craigslist charges for are so considerable
(estimated at around $US20M per year) "that Microsoft and Google
and eBay have all come up with competitive offerings, or have announced
plans to do so."
Quote of the month
"The problem facing usability is how to scale up so we can impact all the user interface designs in the world. How big is this challenge? As of November 2005, there are about 75 million websites ... also 30 million intranets inside firewalls. Thus, there are more than 100 million user interface designs" - Jakob Nielsen.
But the challenge may not be in design conventions but in relationship. "A web site is an implicit contract between two and only two parties - designer and user... Enforcing usability rules will never get past the 'thought experiment' stage" - Clay Shirky - An open letter to Jakob Nielsen
If you have any comments on The Insighter, or ideas on usability topics you'd like to hear about, send us an email with your comments.
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