The colorful, outspoken Bryan Eisenberg, co-founder and Chief Persuasion Officer of Future Now and writer on usability oriented subjects for Clickz.com has written yet another thought provoking article.
I read Are You Designing for Usability or Sales?, Part 1 because I love his passion for incorporating persuasiveness into website user interface and how it relates to usability.
If I understand Bryan's perspective properly, persuasion is a motivator, whereas usability is a satisfier. I agree. We make decisions based on these two things everyday.
Bryan's article contains statements I don't accept as true for myself, such as "The general problem I have with usability as a discipline is its focus on use, not the user." I've done the use cases and requirements testing. This is okay and good discipline when done methodically.
But nowadays I'm even more focused on the human experience and REACTION to user interface. That reaction, or response, isn't a simple matter of making a pretty button with descriptive label that goes somewhere logical or fulfills a requirement. That button must also inspire that click. Still, lately, I've been searching for even more than this and how it relates to user interface design, user tasks and intent and the bottom line - sales or traffic. Bryan got my attention when I read "Users evaluate the level of empathy you display for their wants, needs, and desires. Usability is based on the physiological and psychological principle that only an individual's perception can explain. If users perceive you as empathetic, they'll continue to navigate your site despite the usability faults they experience."
As an example, the other day I tested a website targeted to the "enterprise solutions" market (one of those over-used terms that doesn't say much.) From a usability "does the site work?" perspective, it worked fine and was designed well. But, being a woman, I spent several minutes trying to find a picture of one of us on their website. The images were nearly all men or the women were in supportive, not leadership-looking roles. The site wasn't designed to sell to women Network Managers or IT Directors.
Bryan also wrote, "Salespeople instinctively adapt their sales presentations to fit customer preferences. Reading the customer's facial expressions and body language and listening beyond the customer's questions to interpret tone of voice, the salesperson "sells" each customer in whatever way that customer prefers to be sold."
YES! I touched on this in my own recent article called Why Ecommerce is Not Ready for My Daughter or Me. Stores have cameras. They don't need user surveys! They see what we look like, what we touch, what we ask and what we steal. They know what we want because they know us pretty well.
This insight into website users excites me and yet it's hard to duplicate this kind of user testing with ecommerce sites. Clicks and traffic logs don't have soul. We don't know who is behind the skin of that click.
Which, of course, leads to user personas...but I'll save the pitch for Cooper for another day. For now, you can get a taste of it by reading Bryan's article.