News from the conference room: this is a series of blog posts in which blogging experts briefly review key Tech4Africa 2010 talks and panels from Day 1 and 2.
Andy Budd has done some great work on a bunch of major sites, from BBC on down. He’s a user interface and usability guru.
He started his talk putting the value pyramid into a usability context. If you take a business that provides a commodity (coffee bean), then a product (packaged coffee), then a service-backed offering (coffee shop), then a complete experience (coffee shop with baristas and sexy acid jazz piped music), you’ll normally increase profit at every point. (Ed: gross profit, what happens when you factor the cost of all the premium customer support staff and beautiful designer stuff is another story).
But in a Web paradigm, moving from a ‘commodity’ web service to an ‘experience’ for users is a critical and necessary step for long term success, because if you can do a basic site, so can a hundred other people.
Budd had an interesting pyramid on product/service maturity, particularly relevant to creators of Web service: first functional, then useful, then usable, then delightful, then meaningful. As in, people would hate to live without it.
And key to this is great user experience. Not the technology. Not the cleverness of the site. Not the number of features. The user experience. Think Apple. (Sorry, they’re the obvious standard.)
These are his main points when designing sites for usability:
Think of your Website as a shopfront – and think about it in the same way as Mary Queen of Shops (the TV show).
* First impressions count
* Shop window must communicate your purpose and intent
* ‘Desire lines’ drive people deeper into the store (cute, clever, creative things that pull people in further)
* What is your advisor and your guide to visitors? (think hotel concierge)
* Look at video tours to make your users experts quickly… show people around
* Have a gimmick that makes it fun
* Be helpful
* Keep things simple, and focus
* Reduce the number of options available
* Use sensible defaults
* Wow your users with exciters and delighters (think of the little chocolates left on the pillow at hotels)
In terms of feature planning:
* As a startup create a minimum viable product
* Do one thing and one thing well
* Provide exceptional service
* Be there when things go wrong – great things can happen at the intersection of customers and the business at the point where things go wrong
Of course, the problem in SA is our business culture is not usually one of excellence, of constant improvement. It will be a hard job for Web design teams to convince management once the site is finished to spend another million bucks on usability testing, user experience research, tweaking, trying different things. They’ll probably say, “The site is up. It works. Piss off.”
Budd’s suggestion is for the Web team to sit with the marketing team (the most likely allies in building usability) to help create a business case to take to management.
Good luck with that.