September 01, 2004

Melts in your mouth, and on the web...

Something I blogged about being broken almost three years ago is still broken today:

You can't buy M&M's where I live

Update: Now I can buy M&M's in one Target store within 15 miles of my zip code (according to the app)...

This example points out something Jakob Nielsen overlooked in his Alertbox article Helping Users Find Physical Locations. Teams designing locators, whether product locators, dealer locators, store locators or whatever, need to make sure that the application has complete and accurate data. While a common usage scenario is that a user is looking for a nearby location, often users are also aware of a nearby location and want to find an address, map or phone number for that location. If the location they are looking for isn't there, they will quickly lose trust in the locator application's ability to provide good information.

I'm not sure if the Nielsen Norman Group's guidelines report talks about the need for good data either. Often, I think usability folks focus on the user interface, and shy away from pointing out issues with content (data) or business strategy. While the M&M locator has content problems, the biggest issue I see is that no one in America needs a product locator for M&M's - the product is a ubiquitous offering at just about any grocery store, gas station or anywhere else that sells candy.

August 30, 2004

Usability Quote of the Day

"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding."
- Kahlil Gibran

This quote reminds me of facilitating usability tests. Often, the frustration and struggle that users go through is very evident, but that "pain" often is a powerful catalyst for opening up the understanding of the design team, business, or organization conducting the tests. I often have to remind myself that in a usability test, the few suffer to prevent the suffering of the many.

Of course, watching your "baby" you designed fail and frustrate users is painful for the design team...but those teams that subject themselves to that pain suddenly find they have new, tremendous understanding and empathy which refuels their desire to create something compelling and satisfying. The shared "pain" of observing usability tests can help a team gel and focus around critical design issues.