April 22, 2004

Good Food, Good Life, Bad Site

The Nestle corporate web site gets my vote for bad site of the day...maybe the week. I haven't seen a site quite this bad for some time. Where do you start? I could spend hours critiquing all the basic flaws (i.e. breaking widely known web usability and design standards) in this site.

Check out these pages (and issues):
- Media Centre (frames, hidden-in-plain-sight Search box placement, link colors, headquarters map)

- Home Page (what's clickable?)

- Download Kiosk (can you say "Fitt's"?)

- Internet Directory (can't see the forest for the trees and the flash)

- Country Access (nice icons by the phone #'s!)

- Careers Site Site Map (it's spelled C.O.N.T.R.A.S.T)

- Investor Relations - The designers and authors of the site show nothing but contempt for their content, not to mention their investors and other audiences by shoehorning content into little porthole-like frames and pop-up windows with ghastly PowerPoint slides shrunk down to thumbnail size. Someone there needs to read a bit of Tufte for enlightenment!

Okay, I've got to quit now...but someone at Nestle should give Rolf Molich or another decent usability consultant a call -- right after they fire their horrible design firm.

April 21, 2004

Defibrillator Maker claims FDA warnings about quality don't relate to usability, safety or efficacy

A statement in a short Reuters article (Cardiac Science Gets FDA Warning on Quality) struck me as a good example of a corporate PR group trying to spin bad press. Here's an excerpt (emphasis is mine):

"Cardiac Science Inc., a defibrillator maker, said on Wednesday that it received a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration following an inspection of its manufacturing facility in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The FDA letter ... said certain procedural and documentation items in the company's quality system were not in compliance, the company said in a statement. The letter did not relate to the usability, safety or efficacy of the company's defibrillators, the firm said."

So what they are REALLY saying is the FDA warned them about problems with their quality process. The FDA didn't point out any exact issues with their products. Of course, the process is what leads to (i.e., designs, tests, and approves) the products, but that's just a minor point, right?

April 20, 2004

Search Best Bets & Reporting on Search Log Data

Looking for a way to process your search logs (data files that keep a record of each search query performed on a web site)? Check out this helpful article from Jean Ferguson, a Masters student at UNC: Counting frequency in a list of search terms. It does a nice job of explaining how to get Excel to show you your most popular search terms.

If you're managing your search engine, you should keep track of the most popular terms and make sure that people will find relevant results when searching for those terms. Search term popularity follows a "zipf distribution" (think 80/20 or pareto principle), so you get the most bang for your buck by focusing on the most popular search queries. Some search tools allow you to manually point users to "best bets" for a given search term. Here's an example for a search for "support" on the Novell site. Here's another example from the BBCi site - a search for "politics."

See also:
- Lou Rosenfeld, Bloug: 80/20 Again—Critical Architectural Junctures
- Lou Rosenfeld, Presentation called Search Log Analysis for User Research (.5 MB PowerPoint file) given to a local UPA chapter.
- Tanya Rabourn, Pixelcharmer: Best Bets. (Great example of real data from a real site.)
- James Robertson, Column Two: Search tools articles
- Richard Wiggins, Searcher Magazine: Beyond the Spider: The Accidental Thesaurus
- Avi Rappoport, SearchTools.com: Recommending Pages for Special Searches (Covers best bets pretty well with tool suggestions.)
How many navigation bars can you fit on a screen?

Check out this page on the Dell Support site:

Dell Support: Reference Info: User Guides: Dell Printers: Workgroup Laser Printers

I count well over a dozen distinct navigation bars or levels of navigation...

Now click on "Enterprise Support" at the top right (which is not a distinct label from "Support Home")...you get a dialog box saying "Your current 'Manage My Systems List' will remain on this support site while you visit the Enterprise Support site." It tells me nothing worthwhile - I didn't know I had such a 'list,' and now I'm confused. I also noted that while the message seems to indicate I won't lose the place I'm leaving, the Back button doesn't function properly once I get to Enterprise Support.

...I smell a few silos somewhere...

Got any more examples of nav bar overload? Send them to me at Lyle_Kantrovich at Bigfoot dot com (replace the words with the usual punctuation).

Related Posts:
- Segmenting Users with Navigation Games
- Dell.com design case study