Teaching, Promoting, Cheering UX and SEO Since 2002

Don’t Make Me Do a Damned Thing Usability Design

In the future of the Internet, we will no longer have to use a mouse, keyboard or voice commands to navigate or conduct tasks on a web site. Every web site will intuitively know what we want the moment we arrive.

In a hurry? Just visualize your credit card and the exact product you want to buy.  Search engines will hunt for it, race to be the first to bring you the best price and perfect delivery options, register your personal information on the site it decides is the best choice for your purchase, order for it for you and, depending on your preference, either text your cell phone with confirmation or subconsciously send goosebumps or waves of euphoria all over your body. I won’t tell you what adult sites will do, but one can only hope, can’t they?

We’re Not That Far Away From This

Today I was upstairs in my bedroom for a few minutes. I work from home and was alone. Inside my head I was thinking about the day’s work, and a friend’s broken laptop being tended to by my husband, who repairs computers as a side business. I needed to get in touch with my friend to relay an update on his laptop.

Suddenly, music started playing. It freaked me out, being alone in the house and all. I saw the stereo over one of the PC’s was turned on and showing “Aux”. Who turned it on? Weirder still, the song playing was the exact same song that’s on my friend’s MySpace page. Did he know I was thinking about him? How did he magically turn on my radio?

This was pretty cool!

But, I also know I have a husband who is a computer fanatic and while at work, often dials into our house computers and shared drives for music or files. Some folks have garages piled with junk. We have computers with data and computer parts all over the house.

As I suspected, he had tapped into the house from his work 30 miles away. He had pulled up my friend’s MySpace page to get a phone number, unaware that he has music on autoplay there. With the speakers turned on at the house, I heard the music playing. I figured it out and called Mr. Sneaky Guy.  It was a good laugh but also an interesting look at a computer response where I didn’t have to do anything to create it.

From my perspective, all I had to do was think about my friend, and suddenly his MySpace page loaded and his song started playing.

Is Creative Usability Limited or Guided by Users?

What happens when When Poor Usability Services The User Experience?

For example, say you arrive at a web site and want to conduct a task as simple as navigation, but the navigation requires not only thought, but user interaction of some sort that goes far beyond “read and click here”?

Have we become so focused on offering a rushed user experience that we’ve removed the sense of fun from the user experience?  From the thought provoking usability discusssion mentioned above:

Usability seems primarily concerned with friction in task completion. Desirability design is about motivators, and conforms to Nielsen’s “joy of use” and Norman’s ideas as well. Next, some confuse usability with habituation. As if no truly new interface could ever succeed.

What about engagability? We’re fairly well focused on findability, both in marketing and information architecture. Can we balance user research data with creative and daring innovation?

For years Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think” mantra guided usability. It was good advice.

However, what about people who want to think? Who want to feel something?  Who like to participate?

There’s a definite lack of examples on how to design for emotional connection on the web, for example.

I wrestled with Kath Straub’s How visuals can draw and drive attention article yesterday.

It shows two pictures of a woman and a product. In one, her eyes look directly at the viewer and she makes an immediate human to human connection. You sense she can see you. It was thought that this would be more persuasive for marketing the product.

The second image is of her and the product, only now her eyes are looking at the product rather than us. Eye tracking studies showed that this second picture actually proved better at promoting the brand than the one where she engages us directly.

I liked the first picture. It made me feel good first. For me, that was more important. I would be curious to know the genders and ages of the participants in the eye tracking study.

As Kath writes,

People notice people. For lots of reasons, we are built to do that.

Do we, as web site visitors, want web pages to acknowledge us? Do you want to participate in the web site experience?


  1. June 3, 2008    

    The fact that you sat there long enough to figure it all out is a testament to your amazing strength. Personally, I think I would have been a few thousand miles away in 5 seconds flat, because I would have run….screaming!

  2. June 3, 2008    


    I was REALLY hoping I was having some unexplained experience and was kinda bummed when I called Eric and he was like, “Oh sorry. That was me. Didn’t realize his Myspace had music on it.”

    But for a few minutes there, it was a definite candid camera moment! My eyes got REAL BIG and I was fascinated. Like, how cool to think about someone and your computer suddenly responds with something of their’s?

    The possibilities….heh!

  3. June 4, 2008    

    I stumbled on Kath Straub’s article also and it definitely made me smile… I liked the woman watching me, but i only saw the product when she looked at it.

    I think that every rational message should be accompanied by an emotional one, but most important they should be “strongly” linked together, and visual is usually the easiest way to do it.

  4. June 13, 2008    

    I work with attorneys and dentist and plumbers that have decided to put a 5-7 in SEO friendly web page development. In some cases its by a local developer and in some cases it one of theose Thompsons Findlaw cookie cutter sites. And they are OK as long as the search mentions their town but search one town over and they are gone from the page. So We have to recognize that when a web site scores 50-60 points on a the Website grader site it’s a pretty good site but it still not good enough to come up one town over in a local search. If it was it would and it isn’t so they cant. SEM has to be part of the GAP that we discover for our customers.

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