December 22, 2008

Your competition isn't what you think

If you've ever watched a teenager doing homework, you probably know this already. The scary part is that we're more like them than we might like to think. Multitasking has taken on a whole new meaning in the world of iPods and text messaging.

If your business needs to capture their attention on the Web, keep this study in mind. According to a recent study reported by eMarketer, you have competition beyond your competition. Nearly six out of 10 respondents to a GfK Roper survey fielded in September and October 2008 said they listened to music or talked on the phone while using the Internet. Half of those Internet users were eating while they surfed as well.

How easy is it to find something on your pages? Clutter is bad. Usability testing is critical. You just have to pay attention to it, especially since your customers are not. Here's a quick check list to cover before you think you might be ready. Have you...
  1. Identified your users with detailed personas?
  2. Identified the top 5-8 tasks for each persona?
  3. Used at least one of the navigation exercises (card sorting, questionnaires, paper prototyping, etc.)?
  4. Brought in folks (from the outside) to test out those tasks?
  5. Actually gone back and fixed some of the things brought to light in #4?
  6. Scheduled your next usability test?
One of the things I learned at a Larry Constantine workshop was to test under realistic situations. Our group had to design a ticket kiosk. Paying attention to the environment that the software will be used is important. There could be long lines waiting to use the kiosk (putting pressure on the user to be quick), lots of background noise, motion, etc. A complex interface simply won't work in that situation like it might when using a home PC browser.

But, even at home, there is TV, music, food, pets and other distractions. We need to move our usability testing out of the lab and into the real world. Not hard to do, but very important.

Let me know how your next test works out!

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