Little things like poor placement of USB ports in a notebook computer, or bad layout of radio buttons on a Web registration page, can affect the user experience.
Do you wonder why it doesn't take just three clicks but more, to find what you're looking for on your latest mobile phone? Is it you, or is it just a poorly designed product with bad labeling?
I recently got to know three gentlemen who are passionate about usability, and are looking to help businesses in Singapore--and Asia--create products that offer great user experiences. Gul Khan, Timothy Yeo and Raven Chai have set up a usability company called UserX, and they, based on their experiences, believe there is more to usability than what's prescribed by Jakob Nielsen.
In response to my article "Usability makes business sense", Yeo wrote in his blog that "people are different"--they have different goals, different attitudes and, ultimately, different behaviors. "If you design to please everybody, you please nobody."
These guys, as well as Nielsen, have piqued my interest. Usability can help online publishers including ZDNet Asia, better meet the needs of their readers. For example, how can ZDNet Asia make it easier for people to contribute to the site? According to one of Nielsen's studies, in most online communities, 90 percent of users are "lurkers" who never contribute, 9 percent of users contribute a little, and 1 percent of users account for almost all of the action.
And how do we compete for users' attention in the wake of inbox congestion? Nielsen found that e-mail newsletters are still the best way to maintain customer relationships on the Internet, but the challenge is to understand today's "choosy" readership who, according to the Nielsen study, "skip the introductory blah-blah text in newsletters". The report found that "although this text was only three lines long on average, our eyetracking recordings revealed that 67 percent of users had zero fixations within newsletter introductions".
Based on Nielsen's research, I'd be very lucky if 30 percent of our e-newsletter subscribers get past the first two words. The average time allocated to a newsletter after a reader has opened it was only 51 seconds, in Nielsen's study. Often, users don't scan the entire newsletter. Most people skim a small part of the newsletter or glance through the content.
What do you think of usability? Would you be interested in a column that discussed usability issues? Drop me an e-mail, and tell me what you'd like to know or how ZDNet Asia can improve your user experience.