Usability Is King, Part II
July 21, 2008 12:00 AM
My previous post talked about one of my favorite (and one of the peskiest) topics in Internet business: usability. It delved into how television networks have redesigned their online sites (thank you, Hulu) and noted what they’re doing right with their new interfaces, with the promise of writing about what they’re doing wrong in my next post.
As I write this, I’m at the 2008 Blogher conference in San Francisco, where I’m speaking on a panel, so today’s entry will be short and (hopefully) sweet (though who doesn’t love that?).
Here’s where I think they miss the boat:
1. Not all interactive features and community are alike.
Community and interaction became all the rage with the introduction of MySpace, but what many don’t realize is that how users engage (if they do at all) can vary by age, demographic and category. Some prefer old-school message board styles, others via blog commenting, others the style seen on MySpace and similar sites. Yet most of the network sites went with the MySpace type format. I’m not convinced it was right for their audiences. I’ll write more on this in a future post.
2. It’s still hard to find the slide.
The user experience has improved significantly on most network sites, but in taking some time to cruise around on each, it’s still a bit difficult to understand what exactly it is that I’m supposed to do upon hitting the page. As I said in my first usability post, if it’s hard to know what to do, users bounce.
3. They lack excitement.
If there was one thing I noticed while hanging out on network Web sites, it was that few really got me engaged and excited. Plenty had whistles and bells, but I didn’t really feel provoked to want to stick around and get involved. In my “Usability Part I” post, I had talked about how the e-commerce business leveraged “real estate” to show users what’s in store for them on the site and help attract them to want to check it out. I think networks could improve in this area online and spice things up a little.
Without question, the new interfaces and changes to network sites are a positive step in the right direction. Smart Web sites in the future will be multimedia entertainment platforms that give users a lot of variety and choice. No, I don’t mean in where, when and how they get their content (or the content itself), but in how they engage and get involved.