Archive for June, 2010

Why What People Think of Your Website Doesn’t Really Matter

Posted on June 19, 2010. Filed under: Web User Experience | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I’m noticing more clients say they want a user-friendly website.

That’s good — it means more people realize it’s important to know how well a site works for end-users.

But understanding what makes for a valid usability test? Well, that hasn’t caught on as much.

Even attractive websites have usability problems

This came to mind following a presentation I attended earlier this week, where a web design shop showed off a new site they’d built for a local non-profit corporation here in Philadelphia.

This new website is much bolder and better organized than the old one. It’s sharp, all right.

Even so (in my opinion), there were potential usability issues; especially with certain labels in the primary navigation. During the question and answer period I asked if the design company had conducted any usability testing, and if so, how that went.

People who are too close to your organization do not provide objective feedback

Turns out, there was no budget for usability testing. The non-profit organization had, however, asked employees and stakeholders what they thought of the site and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

That’s hardly surprising. As noted, the new site looks sharp. But sending out a link to a website and asking people what they think of it is not a usability test.

Also, neither employees nor stakeholders are primary end-users here. Interested parties, yes — but not the main people the site was built for. They’re insiders who know too much about the organization and its product offering to offer impartial feedback. Their opinions hold limited weight.

The true test of a website is how it works for end-users

Then too, opinions only count but so much.

Because, when you do usability testing, while you may ask participants what they think of one thing or another, the real test comes from seeing how people engage with the site. You want to know:

  • Can users figure out, on their own, what everything means?
  • Can users find the information they’re looking for? How do they react to that information? Does it live up to or fall short of expectations?
  • Can users accomplish specific tasks? Or do they get stuck along the way?
  • Are users satisfied with their overall experience with the site?

It’s test. Not of the participants, but of the site.

Even when testing real end-users, what people say they want to do, and what they wind up doing, may be different. Intent does not always match action. The only way to truly know how someone will use your website it to watch them in action.

There’s a reason it’s called usability testing

If you have the funds to hire an outside consultant who understands the ins and outs of usability testing, go for it. They’ll give you an objective read of how your site works.

If budgets are strapped, take matters into your own hands.

For pointers on how to go about it read my post: The DIY Guide to Web Usability Testing.

And remember, while it’s helpful to know what people think of your site, there’s a reason it’s called usability testing. You’re observing how well the site works when in use.

– Deni Kasrel

What are YOUR thoughts about this post? Comments welcome.

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Social Media Marketing GPS: A Creative Social Media Guide

Posted on June 8, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Toby Bloomberg's ebook, Social Media Marketing GPS, is specially formatted for e-readers

Twitter is a powerful publishing platform. But when messages are limited to 140 characters it has its limits, right?

Well, less than you might think — if you’re as resourceful as Toby Bloomberg. She recently published an ebook based on interviews conducted via Twitter.

A guide to social media, one tweet at a time

As Toby explains in the introduction to her free ebook, titled Social Media Marketing GPS:

“The goal was to create a comprehensive body of knowledge that could serve as a roadmap (GPS) for developing a strategic social media plan. My thoughts were if this could be accomplished in a series of 140 character tweets it might help ease the apprehension for people new to social media, while at the same time, providing a review and offering some interesting ideas for those more experienced.”

Toby admits the whole thing was conceived as an experiment.

Based on the result, I’d say it’s a success. Social Media Marketing GPS is a shining example of the power of communication conveyed through social media.

Featuring advice from 40 marketing pros

The book features tweets from 40 professional marketers, all of whom are avid practitioners of social media.

Some handle social media for corporations or agencies, while others are solopreneurs. Contributors include Paul Chaney, Mack Collier, Roxanne Darling, Ann Handley, Beth Harte, Neville Hobson, Tim Jackson, John Maley, Scott Monty, B.L. Ochman, Connie Reece, David Meerman Scott and Liz Strauss.

Certain of those names are well known; still, I like that Toby didn’t simply turn to the uber-darling “usual suspects” of social media to create her book.

Not that there’s anything wrong with superstar power. It’s just nice to hear from others who are in the trenches, blogging, vlogging, podcasting, Facebooking, Tweeting, branding, and otherwise successfully engaged in social media marketing.

That, of course, is part of the beauty of social media: It helps level the playing field for who has a voice (and impact) in the marketplace.

Big ideas presented in bite-size nuggets

Each chapter of Social Media Marketing GPS features useful ideas and opinions regarding social media strategies and tactics. Topics covers tools and platforms, ethics, metrics, branding, blogger relations and more — all presented in bite-size nuggets.

In a way its presentation strikes me as being akin to how you might use a yellow marker when reading, to highlight essential details. Only in this instance, the content is strictly the highlights.

Toby is the consummate conversationalist

Toby — who, in case you did not know, is a popular blogger and marketing maven in her own right —  serves as ringleader, instigating interviews with a leadoff question. She embellishes each chapter with concise introductions and summaries of key concepts, and then closes out with questions to consider when creating a social media marketing plan.

These questions also invite you to think about each topic — on your own — which enables Toby to create a kind of conversation between the ebook and its readers.

Of course, if anyone knows how to generate stimulating conversation — virtual or otherwise — it’s Toby. She does it all the time on Diva Marketing Talks, her podcast series featuring chats with experts about all things social media. Those familiar with the series may note a considerable overlap between her guests on Diva Marketing Talks and the individuals featured in Social Media Marketing GPS.

Useful to both new and experienced marketers

Meanwhile, Toby does succeed in her goal of creating a book of value to both newbies and those experienced in social media. Wherever you may fall on that spectrum, I recommend you give it a read.

And by the way, if you happen to have an e-reader, the book is specially formatted for this handy gadget.

– Deni Kasrel

Have you read Social Media Marketing GPS? What do you think of it? Comments welcome.

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