Monthly Archives: September 2008

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Are you part of an enterprise that has a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), or even better, a Chief Experience Officer (CXO)? If so, are you currently supporting this person with usability testing and customer (and/or user) behavioral research? If not, are you searching for one?

Bruce Temkin, who is my Hero, and has a shrine in my “business usability / customer experience optimization” room (what, you don’t have that room?), had an interesting Blog that you may find helpful for selling usability into your organization, and finding a sponsor. I highly recommend you read it and forward it to your business associates who care about usability and/or actually read emails you send.

Bruce blogged about “My First 8 Steps As A New CMO,” which among other things contains a listing of the 8 things he would do if he was newly hired and given the CEO’s blessing to shake things up.

Check out Item #4 of 8; “Increase investment in customer insight.” Here’s a quote:

“In all of my work with large organizations, I’ve never heard anyone say “we spent too much on customer insight.” That’s because most companies spend too little in this area. I’d find a way to do more customer research, including ethnographic field studies, to make sure that we truly understand our customers’ needs, interests, and desires.”

I know, I know! Exciting isn’t it!

And check this out, Item #7 of 8; “Improve usability of everything.” Again, here’s a quote:

“I’ve evaluated the usability of 100’s of Websites as well as a bunch of phone, Web, store, IVR, and cross-channel experiences. And there are always a lot of problems. So I’d champion efforts to make sure that it’s much easier for customers to do business with us in every channel.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is EXACTLY the type of work us usability-geeks do! We support people like this, and add value to the organization by creating postive change, mostly for our customers, but eventually for our business and shareholders (if there’s any of those left what with the Dow being in a major Bear mood these days).

Look into your organization and find these leaders and approach them with a short but sweet story of how you can aid their quest for improving the customer experience by providing behavioral research and usability testing / usability optimization. If your organization does not have these types of leaders, people who get the fact that making things easier and more satisfying to use is actually good for business, then consider one of two approaches:

  1. Get out of that organization, and find one that does have this type of leadership (this is the easy way)
  2. Begin a campaign to look for, find and help support the person or people in your organization that believe this type of leadership is essential. Hint: you can start by e-mailing Bruce Temkin’s 8 first steps to several people in your organization that share your beliefs. (this is the hard way)

Remember, usability doesn’t start with conducting usability testing, it starts with finding leaders that believe in usability.

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Have you seen Google’s new open source browser, Chrome? As with all things Googlish, the fine Googlers have released a beta version of a new browser that is supposed to simplify and eliminate annoying extras (chrome) that come with other browsers to provide users with a better experience.

Google (being the speed freaks they are) also tell us that Chrome is faster than other browsers, which should be helpful from a usability standpoint. And being good Netizens they’ve made the whole thing open source so that any developers anywhere can play with it to introduce all sorts of cool add-ons and such.

Finally, Chrome introduces some pretty significant changes in browser features, including tabs that can be grabbed and moved, either inside the existing Chrome browser, or off of the current browser entirely to make a whole new browser. Another new feature is the single search and Address bar, which they call the Omnibox. Pretty cool hunh? Or might it be confusing, if you’re one of the old fashioned set that looks for a bar called “Search” to type things into.

The Usability of Chrome:

So I downloaded and tried out Chrome, and I was fairly impressed with some of the new features, it certainly is a different user experience versus some other browsers. I’m curious however what types of usability testing went into it to get it to this point. Google says Chrome has been in the works for 2 years, so I’m fairly certain that there must have been several iterations along the way, perhaps stimulated from user response.

How Would You Usability Test Chrome?

So my question to you is, if you had to put together a usability test of Chrome, to evaluate how well it works for users and how it stacks up against the competition in performance, what would you do? Since the address and search boxes are now combined, would you test functions such as searching for specific keywords or keyterms along with typical browser functions? Would you time how long it takes to find a specific web page? Would you evaluate the ease-of-use and performance of some of the key functions of the new browser? And what about accessibility issues, such as changing fonts?

Usability Testing Combined Applications:

It’s interesting to consider how a usability test of two what used to be separate functions (in this case the search box and the address box) can be performed in one test. The evaluation method used and the success or failure of the tasks being conducted are probably similar in this case, but that may not always be the case. Since the same box now will be used to conduct two different tasks, the real question may be; does this cause the user initial confusion, enough that it disrupts the user experience, or is it so obvious and self-evident that any initial confusion is easily overcome with usage?

Will Chrome Tarnish With Usage?

It will be interesting to watch the usage statistics for Chrome, to see if the penetration rate increases quickly, or not. Besides the ease of use and speed Chrome brings to the user, there are other issues to consider, including availability of plug-ins and add-ons to make the user experience equal to other browsers. Let’s look again at Chrome in the near future to see whether it will continue to shine, or potentially become a good idea that never quite took off.

So what do you think? Will Chrome succeed and become the next major competitor to IE and Firefox?

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