Usability Is King: Part 1
July 16, 2008 12:01 AM
I was on a panel at South by Southwest this past spring moderated by legendary tech author/VC/entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki and a host of bright, successful Internet business founders and users. During the discussion, one panelists commented about how she “needs to be able to find the slide” on a site or she’ll leave. Being a huge ecommerce tech geek, I knew exactly what she was talking about. Web users will give it a few seconds to “get” what a site’s all about. Any longer, they bounce.
It was a pesky issue that drove ecommerce giants to spend tons of money and time to solve during Web 1.0, and in part why you see many Internet retail sites designed the same way. Things like where the eye lands/moves when it hits a page (usually left or center, then right diagonal) and our likeliness to stay if we don’t have to scroll down were noticed. It’s why you see left-to-right navigation, landing pages fit to screen size and lots of little mini-advertisements (aka, “real estate”) of what the site offers to draw people in.
In other words, a good, well-designed playground that doesn’t take long to figure out, where visitors can find the slide.
I’m a stickler on the topic (it’s one of my strongest consulting skills) and believe networks today are getting it right (even if everybody’s platform is now very Hulu-esque). Not all nail navigation 100%, different community features would have potentially made better sense, but it’s all an important step in the right direction. Here’s why:
1. It makes your goal their goal: With looming convergence of TV/Web and the promise of mobile, TV networks should be making their sites all about the video player and that’s essentially what Hulu’s format does. What to do is blatantly obvious when you hit the site and there’s real estate to move users around and get them excited.
2. It’s familiar: While Hulu (and now similarly CBC, ABC and Fox) have formats similar to YouTube, which users are acquainted with. “More acquainted” means users adapt and adopt faster, and that’s a good thing.
3. It can keep all shows on one platform: Most can’t recall what studio made a movie, but television is different. Fans of “Project Runway” know it’s on Lifetime, and that Extreme Home Makeover is on ABC. The new format enables everything to be accessible via a single site. Search engine and other traffic can be redirected to the main network page to help keep things simple for users and curb fragmentation.
We’re a long way from really being where the Web wants us to go in terms of television, but the redesign of network sites is a good first step. Friday’s post: What’s wrong and what can be fixed.