Mitch Joel of TwistImage, Montreal, was one of the many exciting speakers at IMC 2004. However we learned of his pizza test for websites in a workshop on Usability that he was cohosting. He was encouraging the audience to get real people to check out a company’s website. Offer them a piece of pizza to encourage them to take part and then watch how they interact with the website, he suggested.
Sounds like a plan, eh! However it really sparked a whole series of related thoughts in my mind. Usually in market research studies, it is regarded as questionable practice to offer inducements for people to take part since this may influence their reactions. My mind wandered on to muse about websites that would perhaps exude attractive smells to keep people’s interest. In turn, this lead me to think about the degree of commitment that a website visitor might have in the website. Should this in some way have a bearing on how we do Usability tests of websites?
If someone is keenly interested in the subject of a website, then they may be willing to work harder to search out information they are looking for. If someone is rapidly surfing a number of websites, then different Usability criteria may apply. So who should you have in mind as you think through the Usability issues around a website? Should it be the highly committed individual who will work hard to find information? Or should it be the low commitment individual who will click to another website if it is proving difficult to find what they are looking for?
How can you try to understand how that low commitment individual might surf? One intriguing toy was the Google Slide Viewer . This would take you through a slide-show of the websites for any keyword phrase. You could set the speed of the slide show and it really was very instructive. However, although the introductory page is still there, the Slide Viewer has not been operative for a number of weeks. If it does return, you may find the results instructive in suggesting how a low-commitment individual might surf.
Even without that demo, we can still try to grapple with this issue. It is quite clear that if someone is keenly interested in the website then they should have zero difficulty in finding the information they want. That is a minimum requirement for Usability of a website.
However suppose initially someone has low commitment to your website. They are equally interested in your website or perhaps one of the competitive websites. If that person does happen to land on any web page of the website, ideally you want to keep them on the website and help them move towards the moment of decision. Even though they start off with a low commitment to the website, the information they receive may turn them into visitors of high interest. Such a person clearly is the biggest challenge as the target audience for any website. Nevertheless it is the right person to have in mind as the key individual for whom the website is designed. If the website works for them, then it will usually work even more effectively for anyone with a high commitment to the website.
Related: Bell Canada Website Usability