Wednesday, September 21, 2011

User Experience or Why Websites Fail

Facebook is a study of User Experience

There are many people who are paid strictly to improve the User Experience of a website.  So many that they're just abbreviated to UX and UI.  UI stands for User Interface.  Both are quite tightly coupled. 

Every time you change something, you will annoy someone.  The idea is that if you don't change your system/website/front garden you will find that the world will have passed you by. 

Just as a garden is never a static thing, especially in South Florida where if you blink you have weird exotics overtaking your prized Podocarpus, a Static Website will get overtaken quickly.

There is a balance toward adding new flowers to a garden so that it will be appealing to the eye, or just add new plants to make it fill out better, and doing too much and making it overgrown.

The corollary is that software problem you find in things like Microsoft Word where 95% of the people use just 5% of the features.

So why add the complexity?  You just may use it some time, but you can always ignore it.

Another corollary is the Automobile.  If they didn't improve things, we'd still be driving the Model T.  Beautiful machine that evolved over its years to be faster and more efficiently built but would not work on the roads of this day.

After all, you really do want a stereo and automatic delay wipers and cushy seats and the ability to be comfortable in 90 Degree Heat as well as 9 Degree Cold.

Applying all this blather to a website such as Facebook you find yourself asking why did they do this?  Part of the problem is that changes just "happen" and you're left confused.  Get off my lawn, young'un I want my grass to grow!  Sometimes the changes do work, but usually those changes are only after people make many complaints.  Simplification of Privacy Options on Facebook are a good example.

Today I was presented with this new and shiny feature in the news feed on Facebook.  Sure, it's their right to use things the way they like and develop new features so we all don't move back to My Space (yeah, right) or some other site.  After all they make their money by being the biggest thing on the block.  If we didn't change, we'd all be using dial up modems on AOL

This New! and! Shiny! Feature! was that of the Top Stories.  For me it's not an improvement, in fact it causes problems with the way I personally use the site.

I use Facebook as a scrolling surf board.  I've liked tech blogs, news sites, and other sites that I tend to hit frequently and it may be the first time I read about something important.  I read about Fukushima's Tsunami on Facebook first after I caught a BBC article slip past.  Things like the Top Stories interfere with that by merging articles in because they were voted more important by your friends.  Now instead of having the most recent articles at the top and merely refreshing from time to time to see if I missed anything important, I'm afflicted with the Facebook Obsessive Compulsive Refresh Disease - FOCR.  Yes, they've turned me into a real FOCR as I hit F5 because there's something in the way that I can't suppress. 

The only benefit I see of this new layout is that everyone else will have the same pain as the flying bird of Facebook lets fly with some new top story only to splat itself on the windshield of your browser.  Spraying Bug Juice over it won't get rid of this new "feature" at least yet.  Hopefully it can be turned off.   Briefly it was only for US users, but it has been spread over the pond to UK English users as well.

Sorry I haven't found the fix for this one. 

Their User Experience Folks need to go back to the drawing board.

No comments:

Post a Comment