Usability briefly is the study of how easy it is to complete a particular goal using any device by a person to achieve what they expected. It is a really important area of study for anyone producing content for the web, but extends to how you use a car or even household appliances. Recently I have been hit by Ed Dale’s message of having web pages do just one job for any page and realised I should have known this, so how come I missed it when I studied Usability?
Alright, I have it on good authority from one person I am listening to at the moment in the field of Internet Marketing to do “One Page One Job”. That man is Ed Dale, he is the guy behind the ’30 Day Challenge’ which on July 1st 2010 became renamed and improved to be ‘The Challenge’. This brilliant media, social and free course explains the basics of how to earn your first (or subsequent) dollar online.
So Ed, very experienced and focused on effective marketing tells you if you have a web page which you have worked hard on to create then make sure the desired reaction of the browser is made clear. “One Page One Job”, if the desired action for example is to register, then you should make it absolutely clear. What is shown on the page has to exist without distraction to enable the browser to register, no matter how clever, funny or attractive the other distractions may be.
I realised anything I created before was comparable and numerous as the flight controls on any self-respecting jumbo jet so I thought I had better look deeper into this.
Now Ed has a strong, almost a cult, following and his predictions and advice are respected by much of the respectable Internet marketers that exist. But of course, unless you are not able to work it out for yourself, you must never just take any ones word for it, you either have to test or fit it in to well-known working or academic principles.
So, I have had the advantage of taking a third year degree course, not so long ago, (I know I scream geek – especially if I tell you I did it just for fun) covering a related aspect, a subject in which I greatly believe will become more and more important, usability. The course I took was with the Open University and was called M364: The Fundamentals of Interaction Design. The course was up to date and recent, covering major Internet techniques and principles in good depth and of course I did pass it – honest – thought my jumbo jet flight control analogy I mentioned you wouldn’t have thought so.
So where was this principle in relation to usability?
I struggled with this and found myself spending quite some time looking through all the text books and I couldn’t quite place where this idea came in even though I know it belonged to it. I wondered for a while whether this was purely a marketing principle, I am sure essentially it is part of it, but we were talking about what we present to the final user, hence you ‘have’ to consider usability.
I even started thinking about the definition of a generic system, the need for certain factors for working out how ideal a system is, when at last, before desperation crept in and strike me, the solution managed to get in first and hit me.
This essentially was just a driving principle; it was simply a usability goal!
So what are the goals of usability? They are effectiveness, efficiency, safety, utility, learnability and memorability.
The reason I couldn’t find it within my usability course was because in essence the course focuses on the delivery of those goals along with user experience goals and usability principles.
Can you see the idea of “One Job One Page” in that list? It actually appears in within the usability principles too in which I’ll explain.
The definition of effectiveness is the capability of producing an effect. What is the effect, the purpose of your creation? In this case the web page exists for a reason, even if it has content that has been spun from the depths of hell and that reason is the effect you want, the job that you wish to accomplish. The usability goal of effectiveness, although it can be generalised is essentially how good a system is at doing what it is supposed to do.
The definition of efficiency is the extent to which a system performs something with the minimum of resources. In usability the goal of efficiency is ensuring that the user can perform a task in the minimum number of steps. If your site puts in more steps than necessary to complete the purpose then you will find less people getting there. If the goal here is selling a product then make it easy at least for the user to move on to the next stage.
What the system is supposed to achieve we will call ‘the purpose’.
But aren’t there two purposes to consider here? There is the purpose of the creator to consider (I mean to developer of the system, not The Creator), the reason that the page exists in the first place and has the page been created with that purpose in mind? The other purpose to consider is that of the browser and this purpose is the variable one over which the creator of the page has no direct control. Does the page fulfil their purpose?
The purpose defined here though has to be the purpose of the creator; this should be considered the purpose of the browser.
But isn’t usability solely focused on the purpose of the user? Well, yes and to me it sounds like I have used a sledgehammer to force those two ideals together but a whole new area opens up here which includes marketing to bring them both in line. Obviously you need to bring visitors to your page that need what you are offering but that is of course including the whole range of Internet marketing skills that I would look for now to the experts like Ed Dale.
The important thing here is if you have done the work to get them to your page then you mustn’t waste their time or yours not following these principles. So how well your internet marketing is defines how big a sledgehammer you have to ensure they are the same.
OK, in true horse before the cart thinking I now ask myself what was the purpose of this article… But hey, I’m still learning…