Currently in Auckland, NZ, there is a scandal involving the Mayor. I won’t go into the details, except to say that he suffered from a weakness of the flesh, and misused the privileges that come with his position.
This morning I was listening to the national talkback radio station, where the talkback host was discussing his opinion on the Mayor’s activities, and stating that 96% of people want the mayor to resign. This was based on a poll that was running on the radio station’s web site. The host kept prompting people to go and vote. And then lamenting the fact that hardly anyone was.
After a commercial break, the host stated that to get to the poll, you had to go to the home page of the site, and click on the video of the mayor. This would open a new page, and the poll was there. Then after another 10 minutes the host said that the poll was actually down at the bottom of the page, on the right, nested between a section on “latest audio”, and an advertisement.
This evening I examined the home page. I couldn’t see any video about the mayor. So I tried to find the poll using the site’s search facility. After grinding away for what seemed like a long time, a list of Google sponsored results (that had nothing to do with the radio’s web site), was displayed, and then, after a pause, pages and pages of results… How the fudge could I find what was relevant?
So I did what most people do…I left the site, went to Google, and searched from there. Using the same query, Google responded in a fraction of the time, with, at the top of the list, the result that I wanted. Namely the page with the poll. And sure enough, it was way down the bottom still showing the same results from the morning.
Here’s a screen shot of the web site…
See how the poll is way down near the bottom of the page?! The yellow dotted line is where I could see down to on my PC screen (1600×900) without scrolling.
Even on a smartphone, the poll isn’t obvious…
The talkback host was using the poll, and the results from it, as a main talking point in his show. And he got quite annoyed when he noticed how difficult it was to find the poll.
I revisited the home page. In the top right of the page was a carousel, showing a repeating set of 5 captioned images. There was a delay between each image.The fifth image was one that led to the page where the poll was. If you didn’t know that the 5th image was the one that you wanted, and you visited the page at the wrong moment, and decided to move on, you would miss it all together.
This raises some important points with regards to usability…
- Always check to see what your public will see. The host was probably looking at the raw data from the poll, or a dedicated results screen. He had no idea what was on the public-facing web site.
- Think about the layout of the elements on the screen. What’s important? What’s not? And don’t just think you know what your public/users/etc want, or how they behave. Go and find out. Don’t just ask your colleagues, or the managers! Go and talk with real people! In the real world.
- Find out what type of audience you have. Why are they there? Are they just browsing, or are they three for a reason (like trying to find the poll that they were told to participate in). Don’t have a flippin’ carousel that people have to sit and wait to see what’s on there. If you do have a carousel, have one that allows the users to see the main items in a summarised form.
- Find out the environment. For a talkback show, in the morning, most listeners will be travelling to work,or cleaning the house, or looking after little ones. This means that they will use, most likely, a mobile device to visit the web site. if that’s the case, put the friggin’ poll in an easy to reach location!
Of course, these two points do not even cover what is involved with usability. Having had a look at the station’s whole web site, I could mention a whole slew of things that could be better. However…that would need a whole separate blog post…
- Nothing builds user rage quite like bad mobile usability (talentopoly.com)
- Weekly Web Search: Usability 101 (albert813.wordpress.com)
- Usability Testing Analysis (prestonjoelhughes.wordpress.com)
- Website Usability Review (firstdigital.co.nz)
- On the carousel experience (webimprovements.wordpress.com)