Tag Archives: usability

The Twitter settings update as a lesson in web usability

Twitter went a bit potty today over a change made to the services settings.

Yesterday, Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, blogged the change saying,

“Based on usage patterns and feedback, we’ve learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow… however, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don’t follow… is undesirable.”

See it yet? He said most people. That means a majority. It means that some aren’t like that. That means changing it will be bad for that minority.

Consider this change from Twitter to be entered into the 101 of how to piss off your users.

It’s all about choice. Give people choice and they will reward you with their loyalty, respect and recommendations.

Take features away or make life harder and they will scream, shout, complain and generally bang your door down.

A step backwards? New service makes it hard to e-mail people

Usability is all about making things easy to use. That’s common sense though, right?

Maybe not.

I came across a new service today called Scr.im. It’s (very noble)  aim is to help prevent spammers getting hold of your e-mail address by scraping it off of web sites (such as forums) where you might have reason to post it.

The service replaces your e-mail address with a nice URL, like http://scr.im/hiphilipjohn (and you’re welcome to try that link out) that spam bots can’t get past. When you click on the link you’re asked to complete a simple test, similar to a Captcha.

However noble, though, it just makes e-mailing someone hard. Instead of one click of the e-mail address it takes 3-clicks at best; once to Scr.im, once to pass the test and once for the actual e-mail address.

I understand spam is a problem but I can’t help thinking the time and effort spent building and maintaining Scr.im, as well as signing up, would be better spent on improving spam filters, rather than something which essentially degrades the user experience.

Reasons to use Twitter: Real life user experience feedback

This is the first of (hopefully) many posts highlighting ways in which businesses can use Twitter. I’ll be trying to use examples whereever possible.

First: Real-life user experience feedback.

Frustration at Google AdSense led @tonypiper to tweet,

Adsense has got very confusing recently.

A great opportunity for the AdSense team at Google to get instant feedback on what people are finding difficult so that they can make some improvements.

There could be lots of people talking about your product or service not just on Twitter but throughout the web. Are you finding them and addressing their concerns? The impact on your reputation either way could be dramatic.

Yahoo!’s Delicious Fails at Usability

Not completely, but enough for me to blog about it.

When making changes to your site infrastructure or architecture, it’s important to consider links coming into your site.

For example, I may want to change the URL structure for my blog posts, to include the year and month in which they were posted. This post’s URL would change to;

I would need to consider that there may be some links to this post would be broken. In order to ensure my visitors (or, rather, potential visitors) have a smooth user experience I create appropriate redirects. For example, my .htaccess might include this line:
RewriteRule ^blog/yahoos-delicious-fails-at-usability$ /blog/2008/10/yahoos-delicious-fails-at-usability [R=301]

This would create a permanent redirect from the ‘old’ URL to the ‘new’ URL without the visitor noticing a thing. It really is that simple, too.

So why is it that one of the foremost web companies can’t do that? I was looking for the Delicious bookmarklet today, so I searched Google:

That looked good, so I clicked on it. Here’s the page that Yahoo took me to:

Hmm… no bookmarklets. Oh, but there’s a link to bookmarklets. TWO clicks later I got to the right page:

That’s one search and three clicks which should have been one search and ONE click. -10 usability points for Yahoo. Sort it out, guys!

Intel: Choose Us, We’ll Screw with Your Computer

Intel haven’t actually said anything like that but what impression do they really expect to give, with this ad?:

When it first loads up you see the rather evil looking (okay, red and fuzzy) word “Virus” fly towards these three Matrix-types. It is quickly caught and thrown to the ground. I’m happy with that – Intel are making me think that their technology will stop viruses before they get to my laptop. Nice.

Then the unthinkable happens. As I hover over the ad, I find my mouse pointer is also thrown towards the men. The pointer is scrunched up like a drinks can (as you can see) and then thrown to the floor. Then, it fades away. I’m left with no mouse pointer. What do I do now? I can’t do anything – I’ve lost my mouse pointer! At this point my Mom would probably hit the power button (not that Intel are targeting advertising to my Mom).

So what are you telling me, Intel? If I use your technology will I no longer be able to use my mouse pointer? Are you scared those few little pixels contain a virus? Nope,  you’ve lost and annoyed me. Good job.