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Decline in Useability?

     
5:07 pm on Oct 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Is it just me who struggles with the internet these days? I am getting older every day so may be becoming befuddled, I am certainly becoming less tolerant and I reckon nobody thinks at all about usability these days.

10 years ago we used to get excited about usability.as there were all these people new to the internet and we wanted to make it easy for them.

Yesterday I tried to apply for a business credit card online and after a few loops of the website I had to use the phone number. The very helpful lady said the business folk were not available on Sunday and I could apply on the website.

2 days earlier I was looking for an expensive airline ticket to get home early to fix a flood. The airline website assumed that because I was in Sweden I would be able to speak Swedish. There was no option to switch to English. I had to spend half an hour with the night receptionist at 04:00 in the morning to figure out a way to give the airline an unreasonable amount of money in English.

Just today I bookmarked a page in Windows 10 Edge browser. It bookmarked OK, but it took me ages to work out how to find the bookmark again. First step was clicking on some mystery meat button with maybe a couple of parallel lines on it, then clicking something else. Nothing on Windows 10 seems usable - they don't seem to want you to mess with their settings.

In the past we worried about how blind people would be able to read our pages. I guess the internet is avoiding any discrimination by making it impossible to use for the rest of us as well.

Why is that? Is it the normal thing where big companies get muppets in to do the work rather than pay for decent people?
8:42 pm on Oct 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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That's what happens when you make content king. For the past couple years I've been promoting the idea that the content is king era is over. It is a shallow and meaningless slogan.

For the past couple years I've been proposing (here, on my blog, and on Search Engine Journal) that publishers must adopt the focus that users are king because that's how search engines are ranking websites, around how websites satisfy their users (and not by how many keywords/synonyms on the web page match the search query).

So instead of focusing on keywords, focus on users. Then nonsense like what you described ceases to exist and conversions go up.

The SEO focus on keywords is slowly going away. Even Eric Enge has caught on to this trend. Within the last week he posted a white board that discusses these very things that I've been hammering, that the SEO focus on keywords is for a search engine that no longer exists and that focusing on user experience will help avoid algorithmic issues down the road.

My articles on SEJ go into greater detail than what Eric Enge has posted. Nevertheless, once Eric Enge catches on to a topic, you can be sure that the idea is reaching the mainstream. I would expect at least two more years before it jumps the shark and you've got UX tools in every corner of the Internet, lol.
11:19 pm on Oct 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I don't know if usability has declined. In many cases it has improved substantially. When was the last time you saw a popup that said "This site works best in Internet Explorer" and found that without it, you were completely unable to navigate the site? Some things have improved.

Some things have gotten worse - about half of all sites out there have links that are impossible for me, mildly colorblind, to tell from plain text.

But what I *think* you're seeing is two things
1. You're doing more things online and so you're encountering it more frequently
2. The Design is King problem. I would say that good design is usable and anything that is not usable is bad design, but what I mean by that is where a "graphic designer" is allowed to make all sorts of decisions that a graphic designer should never be allowed to make (link color for example). Or at least should not be allowed to depart from accepted standards without involving a usability test team. But it looks cool and it passes the HIPPO test, so it goes live.
1:46 am on Oct 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I think ergophobe is definitely right about "design is king". Certainly true for my clients (mostly small business, mostly willing to put effort into sites because they sites generate revenue or at least enquiries, or even are the business).

A typical example: one of my clients wanted an animated load more icon under the words (load more) on a list of products, but he did not want the icon clickable, only the words (load more". I told him that this was misleading and people would try to click the icon, he told me "I know my audience" and that was that.

The biggest problem is that even if use opinion is taken into account, it is what users say they like (which is as pretty as possibl3) rather than what actually works well.
2:01 am on Oct 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I think responsive design has got a lot to do with it. We build one page and enable it across multiple devices and display sizes. Showing up is one thing, working in a usable way may be quite a different challenge. We end up with a page that works OK on everything, but great on nothing.

Mack.
3:42 pm on Oct 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Ergophobe and Mack bring up good points about the Design First approach that may overlook UX [twitter.com], something I had not considered. There has traditionally been tension between the design camps and the goals of SEO, which presumably (but not always) focused on conversions. I'm wondering if some of what you're describing also has roots in the glut of templates available to users of a wide variety of content management systems and shopping carts.

So maybe it's a convergence of several factors, including some that have not yet been mentioned, that is contributing to a decline in usability?
6:10 pm on Oct 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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>>glut of templates available

I think there is more awareness and attention to usability now than ever, but it is counterweighted by a glut of templates that look nice but have poor usability. So for every new qualified UX person that gets hired, there are 10,000 cheap templates put out by a designer who doesn't run an actual site on the template so has no process for testing for usability and refining.
6:10 pm on Oct 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Oh wait. Just wanted to clarify that Design First is a formal method for creating apps, software, websites and many other things that focuses on the user experience. There is a similar approach called Design Thinking that focuses on empathizing with the user to identify problems and then solving them. Both are design philosophies that result in products or solutions that people actually want and are intuitive to use.
5:12 pm on Oct 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Sorry to post and disappear. Half the problem for me using the internet is that I am tired all the time - I am busy and do a lot of travel. Maybe that reduces my internet expertise to as low as average.

I spotted another one today while trying to get hold of a log of my credit card spend. I tried to register for the on-line credit card thing but some javascript was badly programmed and it wouldn't recognise that I had entered anything in the password field (not the wrong password, just it didn't see that I had entered anything). I have to go to the local branch which is not handy for me at the moment as it is in a different country! I will have to organise another bank.

My main work is in a different (physical) field. If we don't test everything to death something might go wrong and kill someone. Much money is spent on testing. My field also tends to be felt pen design lead but we get our say when the design will be no good for the customer. The customer has a very clear route to complain and any complaints tend to cost us a lot of money so we like to get things right to start with.

I think there are some big websites that are not properly tested. Nobody tests them fully enough as nobody will die if the website doesn't work. Maybe the problem is that the customer does not have any opportunity to point out the issues. What do you do - phone a call centre? Not going to be much use, and why should I help them improve their website anyway once they have screwed up my day?. I'll have found a work around and will use that next time so it is not my problem any more.

Maybe it will be an evolution thing. Bad sites will die and new ones will appear? Though it is becoming tricky to find the funding to set up a new bank or an airline. I am worried we might be stuck with this stuff and it might get worse in the future.
6:57 pm on Oct 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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When I killed javascript in the browser, rejected any font styles from the sites, switched to High Contrast and asserted my choice for link colors, the web experience has vastly improved. Add Noscript (FF) and Ad Block Plus and my 2mb pipe now works like 12mb. :)

This works for me ... not everyone! I do keep another machine "normal" and check what others are doing, but my personal net use is the way I NEED it to be (bad vision, though not color blind)

There are some dang good UI designs out there. Sadly, they aren't more commonly used and this "design is king" is "hey ma! look at me!" and not usability.

As for Content and Kingship ... all I can say is Design means squat if there's nothing to display. Content comes first, design second. Or they are tied for first place. Content can exist without design, but design has no purpose without content.
11:34 am on Oct 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Overall, corporate websites suck. Aside from horrible navigation, the sites don't do what they are supposed to. They don't have to worry about seo because they are who they are. I could not change some some settings on my cell provider site. Called support and the nice man talked me through the process, which i had already tried, and when we were done he had the same problem, the site just does not work. He reset everything which made it worse. The end result was me paying for things i don't want. The site was very pretty and was obviously designed by the marketing department as every page is a giant advertisement.

It is rare to find corporate website that has any useful info or functions properly.