Interview With Usability Guru

Usability guru Jakob Nielsen was interviewed (via Ajaxian) on usability and its relation to advertising.

One of the things that come out of it are the applications of AJAX.

It’s important to remember that most web sites are not used repeatedly. Usually, users will visit a given page only once. This means that the efficiency of any given operation takes a back seat to the discoverability and learnability of the feature. Therefore, interaction techniques like drag-and-drop should almost never be used on web sites. Instead, focus on showing a few important features and making them accessible through a single click on a simple link or button.

Some business sites that are used repeatedly include features for approximating software applications. Online banking comes to mind, and I can easily envision a design that enables the user to see the front or back of a check through an AJAX technique on the account statement page, instead of going to a new page.

Do we simplify or in fact complicate the interaction by adding advanced features? This is a question to consider whenever any feature is being implemented. Ideally, any feature should be implemented such that it supports maximum number of platforms and browsers without any third party plugins.

He also mentions the classic problem of doing technology for technology’s sake. It is important to realise that the software being developed is for the customer and no one else.

Remember: just because you love technology and advanced features, it doesn’t mean that your customers do. They just want to get in and out without worrying about your web site. So take it easy on the features.

I agree in entirety that adding features or programming tricks turn into just gimmicks if they are not targeted to be used. One of the best ways of identifying the required features is to identify their usage – who, why, how and when. If there are concrete answers to these questions that feature becomes an important one. Rest fall in the category of gimmicks. Every Web 2.0 company talks about AJAX today, but how many talk about using it for improving the website?

He also talks about usability and conversion rates. Usability is an important factor, it makes the user comfortable and that drives traffic. Advertising can get a user to the website, however the conversion to a frequent user will depend on the content and how usable the website is to consume the content.

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Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.

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