OLD age is when you actually watch it

OLD age is when you actually watch it(one person to another) The moment when I realized I was middle-aged was the very first time I had to squint to see the 'Skip Flash Intro' link.
Share |

Vendetta of the Week: When branding trumps usability

Vendetta of the WeekI had to rent a car last week for a family trip through the frozen wastelands of Southern Ontario, which meant an even more arduous journey: through the web sites of car rental agencies.

I'm going to single out one in particular - National - but every other site I looked at had its own flavour of misery to inflict on hapless users. (I feel honour-bound to mention that the actual staff were very nice to us and the pickup and dropoff at Pearson were a breeze.)

After I went through the process of giving National the dates and times I wanted to collect and dispose of the car, and then comparing the rates for various sizes and classes of vehicle, I was ready to click the OK button.

Here's the screen I saw:

Image of the National car rental web site

Twice - twice! - I clicked on the tasty-looking left-hand button that says "go!" in bold, high-contrast letters.

And each time, I had to start again.

Because that button actually isn't for going. It's for stopping and backing up. And if you're paying close attention, you'll notice the words "Go Back" in light text next to it.

Part of the fault was mine - it was late in the day and my mind was on cruise control - but a lot of your users are likely to be in the same state. When they see a big, glossy button that says "go!", years of web surfing have taught them that clicking it will submit the form. And years of driving have taught them that green means moving forward.

So why in hell would National use a big green button to mean "back up"?

The answer, it seems, is National's slogan: "Green means go!" Someone at the company made the decision to extend that branding to their web site's interface elements... including the buttons.

It's a good thing that whoever made that call isn't in charge of vehicle specifications, or the cars' dashboards would consist of nothing but big glowing green "Go!" buttons with the words "Engine is on fire. Please pull over" in tiny type beneath them.

Look, by the time your users are filling out the online rental form, they're committed to the transaction. You don't need to brand the experience to death. You do need to make the process as swift and painless as possible, so your user stays committed through to completion... and feels motivated to come back to the site next time they need a car.

Otherwise, green will mean go.

As in, elsewhere.

Share |

Usability tip: "cancel" isn't the same as "no"

Warning: a pet peeve follows. 

Way, way too many programmers are in love with the words "OK" and "cancel", as in the dialog box "You are about to format your hard drive and set fire to your house. [OK] [Cancel]."

Originally, it made sense: this was your chance to either proceed with an operation or cancel it altogether. But those words have become synonyms for "yes" and "no", and that's a problem.

Take this example:

Dialog box reading 'Confirm: Do you want [deleted] to remember the username?'

(I've blocked out the name of the offending Firefox extension because, well, why single them out when there are so many other offenders?)

This box popped up while I was trying to register a domain name. It was asking me a question: did I want something to happen? And the logical answers are either "yes", "no" or (and this is asking too much from most apps) "I'm not sure; tell me more".

But "cancel"? That could mean anything from "cancel saving the username" to "cancel submitting the form" to "Stop the Internet: I want off." A few seconds of reflection later, and the likely meaning is clear... but as Steve Krug pointed out so famously, making users think (at least about interface choices) isn't a friendly thing to do.

There are still times when "OK" and "Cancel" make sense; I don't suggest jilting them altogether. But when you're asking a yes/no question, what possible reason could you have for not offering users the ability to give a yes/no answer?

Share |

Podcast episode #2: Should you test your site for usability?

Episode #2 of the Social Signal podcast features an interview with design ethnographer Kelly Goto, who explains why testing for usability is a must in the era of the social web. We also list some of the events coming up on the Social Signal calendar.

Some of the links mentioned in the podcast:

Share |

For every regular contributor, nine occasionals and ninety-nine lurkers

Online participation

Working with everything from political groups to online discussion boards, I've heard the same lament: "We have so many members. Why do we have so few people participating?"

Hard though it is to admit, for the vast majority of members, that organization or web site that occupies the dead centre of our universe lies at the outer fringes of theirs. Whether because of interest, attention or life's many other demands, they'll only partake of a little of the array of functions and content we've set out before them.

Social Signal on...

RSS feedTwitterFacebookGoogle+

Work Smarter with Evernote

Get more out of Evernote with Alexandra Samuel's great new ebook, the first in the Harvard Business Press Work Smarter with Social Media series!

Available on Amazon, iTunes and HBR.