Usability and the Press


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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  1. Craig,

    Although you posted this in January, I've read it only recently. Creating strategy and interactions with the earned/editorial media is one of several areas of my consulting business, Michael Draznin Consulting. So, when Nielsen first published his AlertBox issue with Press Area Usability, I was delighted and intrigued. I agree with much of his thinking; still some of it falls short, based on my 20 yrs of hands-on experience. Your follow up post serves an insightful and informed commentary, expansion, and more to his. In short, both are extremely informative and useful. Still, I continue to be amazed at how badly the UX community continue to fumble the strategy and design of this uber-important area of web sites.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas. Your blog is a must-read to my thinking.


    Michael Draznin

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