Monthly Archives: January 2009

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New Persuasion Emotion & Trust Design Reviews of Web Sites demonstrates “PET” in Action

Wondering how to generate Persuasion, Emotion and Trust to help your web site sales or related goals? Look no further than Human Factors International, which has just announced a new Persuasion Emotion and Trust web site design review section of their new HFI Connect web site.

This is exciting news, because for the first time ever (that I’m aware of anyway) you can see a professional review of an Enterprise web site based on core PET principles, and learn from the pros.

PET Design Reviews of Cigna and CareFirst:

As of this writing HFI’s PET design reviews is Cigna and CareFirst. The interesting thing here is that you can view the home page and read the PET review by clicking on the numbers at the top of the design review box. Highlighs in the screen shot of the home page identify where the good, or bad use of PET elements are. This is handy. It’s a great way to observe how the elements of persuasion, emotion and trust work, in context.

The TryPETDesign Web Site:

Here’s the really interesting thing about HFI’s new Connect site, there’s a link to their web site. TryPETDesign allows you to upload your own web site page and score it using 9 of the 70 PET design principles. You can also score other sites, assuming you know and understand the how PET principles should, and should not, be used. It’s an interesting and interactive way to score various PET elements, and to learn from others by viewing scores on their site. I would think however that for scoring context is key, and it might be a good idea to train on persuasion, emotion and trust principles before applying scores.

I’m excited about HFI’s newest member of their web site family. The HFI Connect site with the persuasion, emotion and trust reviews, coupled with the TryPETDesign web site enable everyone to see PET in action, which I think provides a unique way to experience PET. I think this ability to interact with HFI, and with fellow PET enthuasiasts clearly demonstrates how to make community work for a company.

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The 7 Enterprise Usability Tips Everybody Knows (but don’t always act on)

There are way more than 7 enterprise usability tips, of course there are! But since I don’t have a really long time to write them all down, and you don’t have a really long time to read them all, then let’s you and I focus on the 7 that can make a difference to an Enterprise, and that way we can get back to the fun stuff, like doing usability! Sound good? Great, let’s get started!

The reality is most of these tips are common sense, and probably quite well-known. However, it’s sometimes easy to get caught up in the day to day activities of an enterprise, and forget the tips, and more importantly forget to apply them! So with no further ado, here they are!

Enterprise Usability Tip #1 – Your marketing or sales department can be your best friend.
Every marketing or sales department in the world needs more sales or inquiries from their website, always. If you clearly explain how usability efforts can and will make it easier for sales or inquiries to happen, then you’ll have a best friend for life. Always check in with the VP of marketing or sales and ask how things are going, and what’s coming up in the near future. Changes mean an opportunity to conduct usability, and improve performance which means more sales or inquiries.

Enterprise Usability Tip #2 – Usability does NOT have to be expensive.
Guess what? Usability testing and analysis does not need to be expensive. Yes, there does need to be professionals at work, but no, it doesn’t require massive amounts of money. There are simple and effective ways to conduct low-cost usability testing. Probably the cheapest and most efficient way to gather critical usability feedback is through paper wire-frames. Penny-pinching can be done by recruiting participants via Craigslist. Card sorts can be done with 3×5 index cards. Basic prototype testing can be done with simple html mock-ups. With a mobile wifi card and internet access through your laptop, you can conduct usability testing almost anywhere, no need for an expensive lab. ‘Nuff said?

Enterprise Usability Tip #3 – Usability does NOT have to be labor-intensive.
You don’t need a team of 20 flunkies and your own personal Barista to conduct usability testing or analysis. A usability practitioner, a piece of paper, and a participant are enough. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Enterprise Usability Tip #4 – Usability has NO boundaries.
We live in the marvelous electronic age where all of us can be connected instantly. I can talk to you if you’re in Nome, Alaska, or Rome, Italy. Remote usability testing allows global access to anybody who’s connected to the internet. Unlike manufacturing, usability has no walls, no boundaries, and can be performed almost anywhere with almost anyone (that fits your Persona that is). How great is usability?!

Enterprise Usability Tip #5 – Usability can be FAST.
More than likely the phrase “We can’t afford the time to do usability testing, we’re on a tight schedule” has been used. Guess what? That’s just not true, darn-it! Usability done correctly does require some fore-thought and planning, but compared to creating a 100 page Business Requirements Document or detailed Use Cases, creating usability testing protocols is way, way faster. Recruiting and testing can be done very quickly too. There’s no reason why a complete test plan, recruitment, testing and analysis cannot happen in 2 weeks. Sound impossible? It’s not! I’ve done it many, many times. Usability testing and analysis can be conducted concurrently to development. Compare that to the time and energy it takes to “fix” post release mistakes, and usability pays for itself ten-fold. Let’s not hear any of that “takes too long” stuff, okay?

Enterprise Usability Tip #6 – Usability doesn’t always work.
Ummm, but that’s a negative, why is that in here you may be asking? The truth is usability is only as good as the practitioner that conducts the test or analysis. If someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing is handling usability, then it most likely won’t work. Questionable practitioners are out there, and even with the pros sometimes the wrong test is used, or the wrong Persona is tested. There’s a well-known series of Comparative Usability Evaluations (I’m thinking specifically of CUE-4 conducted by Molich, Jeffries and Dumas) that demonstrated that no two usability practitioner groups use the exact same test methods to evaluate a website. Worse, the evaluations varied widely in terms of number of issues found, and recommendations for improvements. Usability testing is half art, half science. That means usability may not always work the way it’s intended to. Be careful when touting usability, methods vary, and there is no one clear and consistent way to always obtain the best results. Just remember that nobody’s perfect, and mistakes, sometimes bad ones, can happen. Set expectations carefully.

Enterprise Usability Secret #7 – There’s more than enough work to go around.
I don’t know of a single Enterprise that has exhausted all potential usability projects. The more an enterprise relies on employee and customer web applications, the more usability projects there are. You can probably find at least 10 usability projects in your intranet alone, and enough potential savings to pay for a host of studies. The implication here is there’s no reason to not get out there and promote and conduct usability to improve the experience.

Conclusion – There’s plenty of enterprise usability tips

I suppose there’s nothing earth-shaking or amazingly new about these seven secrets. But the reality is most enterprise usability practitioners need the occasional reminder that there are multiple ways to conduct usability, and by reminding yourself of these secrets you may be better positioned to take advantage of usability, and help your enterprise succeed.

Do you have other usability tips you would like to share? Send a comment now and add your thoughts!

So what are your enterprise usability tips?

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Companies work very hard to generate positive press, but poor usability on company web sites can hurt those efforts.

Usability Impacts Journalists

According to a recent article from Jacob Nielsen’s AlertBox (see Press Area Usability), the usability of a company’s press area can impact how the journalist perceives that company. Worse, the usability can impact whether the journalist will contact and write an article about the company, or not!

The article also mentions that because Journalists are extremely time sensitive, due to the need to complete their articles by their deadlines, they have little to no tolerance for poor usability. Often journalists have only one day to compile information and submit an article. Because of this, journalists more than most website visitors will abandon tasks and web sites that do not meet their needs or expectations. Poof! Bye bye story!

Usability is Impacted by Journalists’ Location

In addition to this time-pressure, some journalists, especially freelance journalists, work from their home. This means they may be using home equipment and connections that are not as fast or reliable as typical large news organizations. Large files such as PDFs or videos or other multi-media can, according to the article, cause problems with the journalists experience.

If your company has the goal of attracting press coverage, then this is crucial information. The Alertbox article puts it well:

If journalists can’t find what they’re looking for on a website, they might not include that company in their story. Journalists repeatedly said that poor website usability could reduce or completely eliminate their press coverage of a company. For example, after having a difficult time using a site, one journalist said:

“… I would be reluctant to go back to the site. If I had a choice to write about something else, then I would write about something else.”

Another journalist described what he’d do if he couldn’t find a press contact or the facts he needed for his story:

“Better not to write it than to get it wrong. I might avoid the subject altogether.”

Usability of Press Areas is Improving:

I found it interesting that the good news is the usability of large corporate web site press areas is getting better. According to the article:

Because we conducted our research over several rounds since 2001, we can compare the situation in the past with today’s state of affairs. In doing so, we found 4 main changes:

  • Better design
  • Increasing search dominance
  • Improved user technology
  • Embrace of multimedia (in concept)

Usability of the Press Area is Critical:

My take is that companies that desire press coverage must take usability, especially the usability of the press area, very seriously. Journalists will be impacted by the content and ease-of-use of the website and in particular the press area. Poor performing press areas WILL hurt a company, in the sense of less coverage and potentially some negative impressions of the company by the journalist, based on the journalist’s experience.

Don’t take your press area’s usability for granted. It could be costing your company the one thing it most desires, positive press!

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Managing yourself and usability during a layoff

I manage usability projects for my company, I also as of January 8th am a layoff survivor. Our company, Touchcommerce, like many other companies, is restructuring itself to drive maximum profit out of each and every penny of revenue. We all know that’s a smart thing to do during difficult economic times, but it’s very hard for the humans that comprise a company. Layoffs, like a bad divorce or health-related amputations, are sometimes a necessary evil.

Maybe your company has done or will be doing the same.

So on the 8th my boss and several other people sprinkled around the company were “terminated.” Brief 1 minute discussions were held behind closed doors, boxes were handed out, crying and hugs were shared, personal items were gathered and then one by one the terminated employees left the building, handing over their security cards and any other company equipment in the process. As a “survivor,” we had go through this ordeal with them.

Sometimes you get advance warning of the layoff, sometimes not. For me it was a “not.” I (and my boss) had no idea that Thursday was to be the last day of working together.

Have you been on the survivor or terminated side of a layoff? Perhaps you’ve had to do the layoff, being the person that has to have the brief 1 minute conversation with your employee. I’ve been on all three of those sides, having been laid off from several firms over the past 20 years, I’ve also been a “survivor” of numerous layoffs and I’ve been the guy who had the brief “the company is restructuring and so your position has been eliminated” conversations.

I sometimes think being the terminated person is sometimes easier to deal with, although devastatingly scary at first. As a survivor, the shock may linger, after all, you have to walk by that person’s desk or office many times a day. Then there’s the fear of the unknown, the questions of,
“Who will I be reporting to now? What projects will or won’t be supported, what am I going to be doing? Will there be more layoffs, am I next?”

For those of you with a mean boss, or someone you didn’t see eye-to-eye with, you may be silently singing “The wicked witch is dead!” For those of you with a boss you love, you may be silently singing a funeral march. Either way, as a survivor your emotions are probably very high, and it’s probably hard to even concentrate, or know what you’re supposed to be doing.

Having just gone through a layoff and being a survivor, again, I thought I’d share with you a few tips I’m using to cope with this situation. No, I’m not a psychology expert and I don’t know all the answers with how to cope with being a survivor, but having been in this position more times than I care to remember I’ve come up with a few coping techniques that I’m hoping might help you.

I’m hoping you’ll share your techniques too, so that anybody who reads this and needs the help will find many different techniques to try for how to cope with a layoff, and keep usability flowing.

Five Layoff Survivor Techniques – I’ve Got A New Boss:

1. It’s OK to be emotional.
Bottling things up during a very stressful layoff is not a good idea. I usually go through the whole gamut of emotions, from fear and resentment and denial, through depression and ultimately to acceptance. Just realize it’s ok to have emotions, powerful ones, and that they are normal.

2. Talk to someone.
The best way to deal with a stressful situation is to tell someone about what you’re going through. Call your spouse, or your friends or relatives, talk to them about what happened and share with them your feelings. It’s amazing what support from relatives and friends can mean during a difficult time.

3. Identify what you need to do, today, and in the next hour, day, week.
More than likely there is a transition period in which you may not be very clear about your responsibilities. If you’re lucky, this transition period is very brief, and your company already has ideas about what they want you to be working on after the layoffs. Your new boss may or may not know what you now should be doing. Try to get more information about your duties and responsibilities. More than likely however, it won’t be very clear about what you’re now responsible for and what you should be doing. Seek out those with information and ask questions, but don’t panic.

4. Be productive, do work.
Unless told differently, just keep working on what you were working on. It’s rather therapeutic to get lost in work, it might help your mind from racing and you becoming distracted. DON’T resort to gossip or lunch-room discussions. Try to concentrate on important projects you’re already signed-up for, and work on them.

5. Document what you are responsible for.
As a layoff survivor, you may be reporting to someone else in your department, or you may be reporting to a different department. It’s usually helpful at this point to document what your duties, responsibilities and current on-going projects are. Don’t get into details, keep it high level, bullet points only at this point. If you need to, share this with your new boss. Be prepared to add to your list, or modify it based on your new boss’ needs.

Just remember that as a layoff survivor you can fear change, or consider it a transition to potentially something new and different. By focusing on what you can do to make this layoff a positive one, you’ll be in a better position to deal with the emotional impact of a sudden change.

Please feel free to share your techniques for coping with a layoff too!