Is Usability That Important?
July 22, 2014
We live in a digital age where websites are judged on usability more than any other factor, but is it really that important?
Obviously this won’t apply to all websites or to every company for that matter. It’s not like we can put up roadblocks or explore new concepts with sites that handle banking or healthcare, but would it be terrible for a movie site that targeted teens to add just the slightest amount of difficulty to see a video or get the cast list?
Consider Jim Carrey’s website. It’s not only completely unusual, but it matches his personality (his brand) perfectly. It is all over the place, hard to read, and over the top. It’s nearly impossible to use, but that’s what makes it so delightful. If we compare this site against Smashing Magazine’s 10 principles of effective web design, which is just one voice of many online saying the same thing, it fails almost all of their main points.
1. Make it easy: You have to think and explore more than you have to read. Half the content is provided only through randomly clicking and playing. Adventures are never easy, but always memorable.
2. Consider the user’s patience: Oh, it will consider it and then it will test it. You will be on this website for minutes, not seconds like the average site. This is mostly due to how much there is to see, but also because of transitions and load time. It’s not a fast site by any means, but in my opinion it’s worth the wait.
3. Don’t be busy: It is extremely busy. It has sounds, animations, and full-page images through out the entire site. This site doesn’t want you to focus on one thing, but experience everything. Sensory overload at it’s finest. I’m sure if they could have worked smell in they would have.
4. Guide your user: It barely leads you at all. It doesn’t expose the route you should take; it allows you to explore everything by yourself.
5. Use effective writing: It doesn’t rely on clever writing to be a good website. It’s entertaining and fun. This comes from its playfulness and personality, not it’s written content.
6. Keep it simple: This site is simply not simple… at all.
7. Use white space: “Who needs white space when you have this much content!” says Jim Carrey’s website.
8. Communicate effectively with a visible language: I actually do think they communicate their message very well. This is the first point that this site meets Smashing Magazine’s principles.
9. Follow conventions: No! They don’t want to and they don’t need to.
10. Test: They probably did a lot of testing, but that is neither here nor there for the topic at hand.
Smashing Magazine isn’t necessarily wrong. I truly love that site and believe their articles are thought-provoking and educational. But, each project you design should have it’s own personality. You shouldn’t be blindly copying what every other site is doing. Establish your target audience and be willing to expand their view on what the Internet could be. They know what it currently is, so why not explore the unknown and take your visitors on a journey?
The book “Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements” discusses creating barriers to entry. The authors say that if someone has to work a bit to become involved, they will stay involved longer. Although they’re talking about marketing, it could apply to design, too.
If you created a small barrier that someone had to work at or if the user had to discover an entry, do you think they would stay on your site longer? Is your site’s content strong enough to handle a barrier to entry? Above all else, even usability, content is the most important part of your website.
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