Usability Reviews Verify Good Work

While on a plane heading home from a conference I happened to meet the mother of a Human Factors employee for a well-known global Internet software company. As we chatted, she noted that when I spoke of my work, she could tell I wasn’t the critical type.

She’s a human behavior specialist. In her practice, she helps people who have suffered trauma. There’s a way that you listen. A way you offer support. I realized she was paying me a huge compliment if she noticed something about me and how I conveyed bad news to my clients.

I love to share my passion for usability. I can tell when a client is infected with it because during phone calls their voices change from sounding hesitant, shy and worried to excited, positive, and they start coming up with new ideas for their sites on their own. All I did was ignite their fire and help them fall in love with their web site again.

I’m working on a site now that doesn’t need me. Whomever is assigned to coding it knows what they’re doing. The text links contain title attributes. It’s table-less CSS. There are alternative ways to search and several ways of categorizing their information that meets different target customers. Their customer service phone number is above the header in a large font size for easy reading. Near the phone number is a small text link that if clicked on, will display their customer service hours.

It displays in all browsers and pages hold their integrity when windows are sized under 800 pixels. They made sure to put critical elements on the left side so that when the right side disappears, vitals still appear. In the case of this site, this is important because they sell parts and have strong competitors. Customer habits include price checking. This means several browser windows open on a screen or tabbed browsing back and forth between web pages. The company that doesn’t understand this kind of user behavior is the one that is less likely to sell the part.

Sure, I’ll still find things on their web site to report back on. For a site that’s doing so well to begin with, what I often find are tiny details that may make the user experience smoother or more logical. It’s also my job to consider visitors with disabilities, eyesight struggles with contrasts or font size, their emotional state and environment.

Every courtesy can pay off sooner or later.

Web site evaluations aren’t intended to be like a final exam in school. There’s just too much to know and consider to be absolutely perfect. With changes in technology and user behavior, it’s come to the point where I’m doing usability checks for the same clients every year, just so they can make sure they’re still on the right track. These site owners take their businesses seriously but what impresses me even more is their enthusiasm and devotion to their site visitors. They’re willing to invest their time and money to improve customer or visitor satisfaction. This, in turn, increases their conversion rate and ROI. It helps with search engine rank, branding and traffic.

For me, with these types of web site owners, it’s a relief to know I’m not causing them anxiety. They truly want to learn.

It’s nice to be able to tell a web site owner they’re doing a great job.