A couple of posts ago I mentioned how putting too much focus into usability by people who do not understand usability, might only have a negative impact and an opposite effect. I wanted to go a little bit deeper into that.
Usually, what my experience is, is that people who are managing or owning an online or offline production, are afraid people will not understand how it works. This often happens with descriptions, or the lack thereof in a website.
The big issue is, is that there hardly is any budget or time in any project these days for a decent audience research. And even if that takes place, the results are often overlooked or completely ignored. I can preach here that that should be different, but as soon as there is money involved, research simply is not spent on finding out what users might be used to or not.
Having been in that situation so very often myself over the last 20 years, I would advice the following basics that everyone simply has to agree on:
1. You don’t have to tell your users to ‘Click Here’.
Really. They are not that dumb. After all, they were able to get to your website. And they have used websites before. Don’t get yourself in the thought process that your website is the very first website they every visited. If you are not Facebook, Google, Microsoft or Apple, or host explicit porn you do not have to even remotely think you will be in the top 50 of the first websites they have visited.
This means they know how to navigate through websites. Just hold on to the default design basics, and you’ll be fine.
2. When in doubt, just bend over…
If you have no clue where to go from where you are now in your design, I would advice to listen to the big guys and let them control you. That sounds like a real good leadership advice, I know, but the truth here is that Microsoft and Apple both hold the best Usability documents available. And for every platform. Don’t forget Google if you are developing for the Android platform.
Windows 7 & Windows Vista: http://download.microsoft.com/download/e/1/9/e191fd8c-bce8-4dba-a9d5-2d4e3f3ec1d3/ux%20guide.pdf
Windows Phone: http://download.microsoft.com/download/D/8/6/D869941E-455D-4882-A6B8-0DBCAA6AF2D4/UI%20Design%20and%20Interaction%20Guide%20for%20Windows%20Phone%207%20Series.pdf
You might want to add a unique interface to your production, but keep in mind that the users of the computers are already used to the interface on that computer. If they are not, dealing with your interface design is not their biggest problem.
And also, they are large corporations, and sure they are megalomaniac commercial multinationals; but they do have the best design documents around. So save those urls to your own bookmark list and use them.
3. Just Do It!
If you have to design something completely different, nothing that has been done before and you don’t get any time or budget for a user research, just do it how you think it would be best. Just use common knowledge, and be able to defend your design as good as you can. Don’t underestimate and don’t overestimate the user, but furthermore, just make your design and rely on the results of the users of your site.
Now, if you do not have this time to do all of the research, the problem is that your manager or boss will come to you and tell you that your users will not understand your design unless you write CLICK HERE under each and every icon in the site. And believe me, in the end it will be everyone in your team telling you exactly what to do because, in case you have missed it, everyone knows how to do design. Didn’t you know?
The big issue will be, if the site or production will not catch one like, due to lack of marketing or such, the blame will get back to you. Even though analytic reports show that people did not even arrive at your site to see your design yet, the case will be that the thought process is that they did not get to your website because the design is not good. Believe me, some of my awarded designs initially were shot down by project managers or project owners because they knew so much better.
4. Look at your computer
If you do not know what way to go or how to build a design you can defend without problems, take a look at the computer you are working with. How does your operating system handle everything, and just more or less copy it, and give your own design twist to it.
5. Use photos
In my experience, the negative internal feedback from your manager disappears magically by the simple use of photos in a background. Big photos. Add rotation with nice fading effects in there for extra pzazz. Up the ante even more with adding a drop-dead gorgeous woman in it, without it being too obvious. Sure, it might sound cheesy, but it always works. Sex sells, I mentioned that before. But also, it can get your manager’s eye focused on different things, while you can do good design.
6. Trust your guts.
Just trust in yourself. Always make sure you have a back-up plan with the design. But if you keep in mind that 800+ million users now have a Facebook account. And so that you know, Facebook doesn’t have the best usability design in the world. I mean, wow, I still have problems figuring out why my friends in my profile view are different from my friends page in my wall. I still do not understand what the thought behind that was. But you know what, if they can get away with THAT, you should be able to build something better. You can always point out the flaws of Facebook to get your Manager in the right mindset, because chances are he has an account of his own.
7. And if anything else fails…
…You can always make it ‘Beige’.