The more I conduct usability evaluations for clients and my business Partners' clients, the more I realize how little people understand what usability is, how it applies to them, and why they need it.
A lot of people live on this planet. Web sites are trying to meet the needs of these people. SEO’s and marketers sometimes have limited knowledge about who will use a web site and what words people might type into a search enigne to find a web site. There is simply not enough thought and research conducted for the long haul. (And sadly, some SEO companies never bother to ask enough questions.)
Is the person who typed in “disability health insurance” over 65 years old, fumbling over the local library’s old computer with a dial-up modem (libraries in some cities are badly in need of funds.) Is this something someone from China or Australia would be looking for? Who searches more for this type of information, men, women or insurance brokers? If it’s men, at least 8 percent of them are colorblind. Many can’t see the color red used for that little “Required Field” asterisk. If there’s somebody else waiting behind the guy in the library, he doesn’t have time to read a lot of content when he first arrives at a homepage. He needs to quickly learn the navigation scheme and be directed within seconds to where his information is about signing up or customer service.
I now think that sending off all my old SEO clients back into the world with a wave was more like sending them off to Kindergarten. There was so much more we needed to know to give them a fighting chance in the world.
I’m not alone in my fascination for what happens after the click from search engines. Recently someone joined Cre8asiteForums, who began to post around the place, including the usability section. His name is Derek Chew (aka “Mugshot”). He’s launched a web site called OrganicRankings.com.
What’s special about Derek is his devotion to the relationship of SEO and usability. A visit to his site shows he’s rounding up some popular writers from related industries. One area of interest to some of you may be his SEO Experiments section. I've learned he's considering more ideas that will be beneficial to folks in the SEO/SEM fields too.
In the coming months I’ll be writing more articles about what usability really is (it’s not just about design and its not a one-size-fits all approach). I’ll also try to explain why it’s important in our work. The key to usability is that it’s always evolving because it’s about people and how we use the technology and products we create. Someday, search engine robots will embrace FLASH and people will wonder how we ever lived without it.