Usability Bliss and Utopian User Interface Dreams

I laughed when I read SEO and Usability: Don’t Beat a Dead Horse, which is a response to my SEO and Usability: Be That Stallion and Round Up The Herd. He has a point and I though it was likely a sign that I’m a usability idealist.

Carlos del Rio wrote:

You need to reach with both (SEO and Usability) hands to efficiently take advantage of your site changes. But wait… word of mouth advertising? Brand building? I love design but I certainly don’t send out e-mails to my friends saying “Check out this site! It’s amazingly usable.”

I don’t evangelize products based on packaging, I spread the value of function. I tell people things like: value for your money, shipping policy, better than the alternative, or full of bright people. Certainly SEO and usability will create both volume and return on investment, but they are never going to be the basis of word-of-mouth advertising. You can dress a duck in a prom dress but that doesn’t mean that anyone is going to tell all their friends that they went to prom with a duck.

I say that if the duck can dance hip hop, drive a Ford Mustang (my teenage daughter’s boyfriend says that’s his choice for cool even if you’re a “dork”) and willingly pay for your date’s prom dress, then who cares?

As a user advocate, I dream of navigation that’s a cakewalk. Do I think people tell their friends to buy from a company because their navigation is easy? Well. No. It’s a combination of things that includes ease of use, as well as confidence, being persuaded to join/browse/buy/search, and extraordinary customer service. Among 134 other things…

I return to Amazon over and over again, even though they change their homepage all the time so I must re-learn it and the order process is always tweaked, forcing me to take my time so I don’t screw up. I refer Amazon because of their prices, not their user interface. Are Amazon web site designers satisfied with this?

I’d like to tell my friends it’s the easiest, most delightful site to buy books from but really, I’m a die-hard physical world bookstore person. Nothing has replaced a few hours of roaming bookstore aisles, sipping tea while flipping through a magazine and pretending to read while curled up in a big leather chair but really I’m people watching. Web sites haven’t competed with human experiences like this yet.

Sometimes I long for them to create a moment that just sizzles with me. Why? Because it shows they know I want that experience and they want to make it happen.

I happened to catch this from Waiting: A Necessary Part of Life by Donald Norman:

“To the analyst, such as me, interfaces are where the fun lies. Interfaces between people, people and machines, machines and machines, people and organizations. Anytime one system or set of activities abuts another, there must be an interface. Interfaces are where problems arise, where miscommunications and conflicting assumptions collide. Mismatched anything: schedules, communication protocols, cultures, conventions, impedances, coding schemes, nomenclature, procedures. it is a designer’s heaven and the practitioners hell. And it is where I prefer to be.”

I get this. For me, the bliss is in the wanting to strive for perfection and believing in that Utopian moment where the user interface totally blows away the person experiencing it. Sometimes I think I’d be bummed if we discovered the perfect web site. What would we strive for next?

Other Finds

Reading about Virginia DeBolt’s resistence to Twitter in New, improved and better than ever has just about tipped me over the edge. I love Virginia’s writings. She has an open mind and she’s mighty smart.

Designing Ethical Experiences: Social Media and the Conflicted Future

When conflicts between businesses and customers—or any groups of stakeholders—remain unresolved, UX practitioners frequently find themselves facing ethical dilemmas, searching for design compromises that satisfy competing camps. This dynamic is the essential pattern by which conflicts in goals and perspectives become ethical concerns for UX designers. Unchecked, it can lead to the creation of unethical experiences that are hostile to users—the very people most designers work hard to benefit—and damaging to the reputations and brand identities of the businesses responsible.

Webstock 2008 coverage – by LukeW is on my must-read list. So nice to see Kathy Sierra again.

And the last word belongs to Jeffrey Zeldman’s Facebook, Twitter, and Bird Flu where he writes:

So the planet warms and the Kenyans kill their neighbors and we tweet about nothing and hope the servers hold out.

One thought on “Usability Bliss and Utopian User Interface Dreams”

  1. I admit it’s rare, but I have to say that I do sometimes recommend a site just because of the user experience. A friend recommended Adagio Teas to me the other day, and I ended up telling others, mainly because the site is so easy to use and customer-centric.

    Of course, if I hated tea, I guess I wouldn’t recommend it, but the UE was instrumental in my interest.

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