Usability Is My Drug of Choice

Usability Is My Drug of Choice

Web site usability and information architecture are still my drug of choice.

c5Whenever I feel close to quitting, I find others who not only believe in the value of UX work, but explain its value better than I can.

UX is the New SEO

UX is the new way to optimize sites for search engines because Google said so. Yes, that benign search giant has decided that links are no longer as important as they once thought. Out of deep concern for its users that click on the search ads, Google has decided that user experience (UX) is a much better determinant of relevance. This left the entire SEO is gob-smacked and floundering, at least those that have not already stepped off the ledge are.

Google’s help is not really helping. As their search engine has gotten smarter with personalization and query revision, we’ve gotten dumber at searching.

From How do we solve the Enterprise UX skills gap?

Sommer used the example of abandoned shopping carts, which are not just a metric but may reflect an emotional breach of trust with a web site that bombards the user with additional offers and promotions, causing potential buyers to flee the scene.

Yen added the importance of facilitators/requirements gatherers who know how to ask the ‘why’ questions, determining the key parts of the user’s role versus ‘chores’ that are not core to the user’s role but must get done (e.g. timesheet processing).

Few designers possess the range of UX skills needed, which include:

User profiling and research, informed by industrial psychology
interaction design: translating use cases into information architecture and screen elements
low and high fidelity mockup creation
user testing and prototyping
visual design
emotional design elements, branding, and verbiage
engineers to build the design
performance testing

Towards a New Information Architecture: The Rise and Fall and Rise of a Necessary Discipline

This is the most incredible article I have read in months.

…I call this new breed of talented thinkers Information Architects and this book was created to help celebrate and understand the importance of their work—a work which inspires hope that as we expand our capabilities to inform and communicate that we will value, with equal enthusiasm, the design of understanding.
~Richard Saul Wurman in Information Architects

Dan Brown, in his talk on Designing Rules, points toward a new relevance for the information architect in a post-Google world. Just as furniture makers had to choose between making patterns for IKEA or continuing to hand craft furniture for a shrinking?—?but appreciative— market, so IAs must decide if they will handcraft bestbets or create the rules for making them. Peter Morville, one of the “my two dads” of Information Architecture moved on to search. Search is far from solved. It and recommendation engines— the push to search’s pull —provide more than enough of a fun rule space to keep IAs busy for many years to come.

This just about caused me to have a heart attack, die, and go to UX Heaven, from Choosing the Right Metrics for User Experience.

Although most organizations are tracking metrics like conversion rate or engagement time, often they do not tie these metrics back to design decisions. The reason? Their metrics are too high level. A change in your conversion rate could relate to a design change, a promotion, or something that a competitor has done. Time on site could mean anything.

I am told that site owners want me to prove why they should hire me. All they want is to rank in search engines. Their sites are fine. From 5 Questions to Ask Your Next UX Design Agency

Smart UX design provides value to your consumers. Value, in turn, influences purchasing decisions and brand loyalty. A great UX firm should understand your users better than you do. That understanding, translated into positive daily user experiences over the long-term, can be a competitive advantage. UX design has the power to set your brand apart. Pick the agency that can best articulate how their UX skills will contribute to your brand’s success.

c4The next time you see a web page with a big form covering up the page, forcing you to give them your email address first, before you are allowed to enter the site or see what what it is about, just know that a marketer had the final say – not a usability professional or conversions expert.

You Have to See This: The Secret to Search Engines and Internet Marketing

You Have to See This: The Secret to Search Engines and Internet Marketing

Before search engines appeared, how did Internet users find information? Where was information located and who had it all?

It is hard to imagine what life was like before the Internet became part of our daily lives.  Schools are removing classes on writing in cursive and replacing them with how to handle Facebook bullies.  Google plans on the being the one and only place on the entire Internet to provide the answers to all questions by all people.

To do that, Google must know who we are, and this is not something we agree is what we want.

We do, however, provide the same thing we have been offering since we first plugged in a computer, dialed up a modem and waited for our email to load.   For many people during the early 1990’s, American Online (AOL) was where the party started.  We began by sharing what we found.

You Have to See This

Figure looking at laptopThis is how it all began.

In 1995 I bought a 286 PC with a 9600 baud modem that shared my phone line.  To get email, access the Web and make my first AOL website, I had to call a long distance phone number to reach an AOL server.  Once I was connected and the modem screeching ended, I went to my favorite groups in AOL that were arranged by topic to meet and talk with other people interested in the same things.  I belonged to and moderated several email subscription groups that essentially did the same thing, which was bringing people and information together.

In the years to come, there would be all kinds of ways to find people to meet and share information with, such as e-zines, groups, chat rooms, listservs, Deja news, UseNet and early forms of instant messaging.  In 1998 I launched a forums, while participated in several others.  There was no shortage of information.

I met mentors who taught me how make my first websites by emailing me or recommending books.  Back then, search engines were not born yet.  If I wanted to know how to do something, I went to a forum or an email distribution list.

They all worked by making referrals and recommendations.

Search by Popularity

Before search engines, everything was referral based.

I repeat. The way to find information at the dawn of the Internet was by referrals.

If you are a search engine marketer, this is important.  The basic core algorithm for all search engines is “What is the most popular website?” This one question tortures and challenges search engine marketers.  They have created schemes, tricks and tools for the sole purpose of creating web page popularity.  Their mistake is not studying user behavior.  Companies do not invest in studying user behavior and how the data relates to their particular web site requirements.

Conversions and Search Engines

Today, rather than refer to words like usability and user experience design, the code word is “Conversions”.  Call it what you wish, but the fact is, you can lead a person to a search engine result by hook or by crook, but if the web site is not designed for that visitor, they are leaving.

It is a fact that most companies pay for a web design, without understanding or caring about the user experience.  Companies care most about search engine rank.  They will do just anything to achieve this, but pay no attention to making their web site user friendly.  Everywhere is the evidence, from banner ads plastered all over pages, to forms that demand to be filled out before a web page can be viewed.

It boils down to this one secret.  Are people recommending your products and services?  Are they chatting about your brand?  Do they refer you?  Are you providing a trusted resource?

If your website were to suddenly disappear, would anybody care?

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This is Your Brain on the Web

This is Your Brain on the Web

Remember the TV commercial that showed what your brain looks like when you take street narcotic drugs?  The splattered egg in a pan? ID-10029069Have you ever wondered what your brain looks like when trying to find something you want from a search engine?  In those cases, brains look like strawberries.

Cognitive Behavior and How We Search the Web

is a piece I wrote about the relationship between human behavior and information seeking.

Frequency of the use a search term may not necessarily be interpreted to mean it is the best word to choose for your particular website. The word might be used often because it is more commonly known and used but still not meet the need of the information seeker because they know of no better word choices to try.

Did you know that your website visitors have different searching styles? Do you know how these behaviors affect how they search for information and make choices? There is more to keyword research data than the number of queries used to find site or the weight value of the top keywords. Words paint a different mental image for some people or don’t mean anything at all.

Another recent article I wrote is on a topic that I love, but which most web site owners choose to ignore.

You Have Five Seconds to Convince Us

One of the reasons why sliders and carousels suddenly appeared everywhere on homepages is because they provided vivid visuals, with or without commentary or a call to action. The logic was similar to what goes into book cover designs. A walk through a bookstore or library is partly research, partly informational and partly tied to whatever book cover attracts attention. A casual browsing experience, where there is time to take in both information and eye candy, does not work for several genres on the Web.

The real tragedy in web design is not knowing how to sell online.


Under-Utilized & Interesting Google Analytics Reports

This is something I didn’t write, but a Cre8asiteforums member found some interesting stuff:

Has anyone used any of the reports and settings suggested in the articles above with any success when working on their own sites or reporting for clients sites? By success, I mean, have you used any of the suggestions and has that resulted in any really valuable insights about a website that you could take action on?

I’m surrounded by smart people.

How to Enhance the User Experience and Conversions of Online Forms

Search Marketing Standard has re-published an article I wrote about online forms design.  If you haven’t checked your forms lately, now is a great time to do so.

Search Marketing Standard | In Rare Form: Best Practices For Online Forms

The article, called In Rare Form: Best Practices for Online Forms, is loaded with actionable advice for immediate application.

The key to designing a form that your customers will use is to build it so they can use it. Form builders tend to neglect special needs users, despite the easy availability of guidelines for accessible forms. International users are also challenged by forms not providing adequate space for complex addresses or country codes in phone numbers or worse — not indicating if they sell or respond internationally until the visitor fills out the address section. Those who wish to retain their privacy and prevent unwanted spam and phone calls are also likely to find many existing online forms not meeting their needs or wishes. Adds Kim Krause Berg to Forms Treasure Trove

Forms on websites are one of the usability conversions topics I write about and one of my favorite areas to test because they always have issues.

From understandability to readability to ease of use, online forms are famously frustrating to use and easy to spam.  Designers will love this new resource from my friends at   And yes, they even added one of my how-to pieces for forms design.

The Form Usability Treasure Trove: 42 Top Resources

Screenshot of Kim's article.

Web Site Usability For Improving Online Forms

Beat Your Competition – Ask for User Interface Conversions Testing

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