Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Making easy things easy, hard things possible

It is always the balance between guiding users to where you want them to go and providing them with enough navigation to let them go where they want to go. I won't pretend to be an expert on this subject by any means. Beyond working my way through a few books, like Don't Make Me Think and the distant memory of university lectures on the subject I am as much a bluffer as the next code monkey.

I was reminded of the importance of giving the user a friendly, usable interface to navigate though a few weeks back when I had to phone the TV licencing people after they picked up on a delivery of a USB receiver at my work. Neither number in their threatening-as-ever letter or any option in the 3 or 4 level deep telephone menu actually came close to the "I don't need a licence now stop harassing me" area I required. It was a complete dead end - even the guy I eventually got through to didn't know how to navigate their maze. It may not be where the evil TV licencing (I'm hoping to start my own mini google bomb :-) ) people wanted me to go, but preventing me from getting to the option I wanted did not help either of us.

When I worked for lastminute, we could tell a piece of functionality wasn't quite cutting it for the users because they would tell us; they provided nice website feedback along the lines of "I want to kill the person who wrote this". Wahanda is a bit smaller, so we spend more time checking how the site is used rather than waiting for people to tell us how bad it is.

We recently rewrote our therapist profile registration and editing form (I can't show you an example until you register :-) ), along with the profile view after it became clear from the incomplete profile data we were receiving that it wasn't obvious to people how to provide data in the way we hoped they would. It still could improve of course, but immediately the quality of the new profiles we saw being created showed that we were at least blocking a few less people.


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