"Why is no one responding to the poll?" … Cause we don't know where the friggin thing is!


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.

poll results

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…

web site on a smart phone

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)

there are only 2 categories of social media

Lithium's assertion


Click on the above image for Lithium’s PDF from where I grabbed this snippet.

Also check out Michael Wu’ s excellent post where he delves into social networks and online communities.

What’s the point of an online Community?


There is an discussion going on in one of the BA LinkedIn groups. The person who started the discussion was that when she joined the group, it was “to understand how others BA see their role and how they overcome the issues they face.” However she’s only finding discussions and articles like “5 Tips to apply to blablabla”, or “10 Things you should know on blablabla”.

One of people who responded stated that “forums (or groups or whatever) are best when they are about exchanging or sharing ideas. That means that the person who starts the discussion needs to participate other than just at the start.” Often what will happen is someone will post a link (often to their own material), in a group/forum, and then never be heard from again. The group/forum is, effectively, just being used as a noticeboard.

So what is an online community? And what makes it different from a social network?

Michael Wu, a smart man who is one of those people who earns a living staring at tea leaves in the bottom of a cup, said that…

the single most important feature that distinguishes a social network from a community is how people are held together on these sites.”

In a social network, Michael says,  people are held together by pre-established interpersonal relationships, such as friendship, classmates, colleagues, and business partners. The primary reason that people join a social networking site is to maintain old relationships and establish new ones to expand their network. on to state that social networks

Carrying on, Michael explains how Communities, on the other hand, are held together by a common interest (it can be a common project, goal, location, etc.). People join the community because they care about this common interest that glues the community members together. Some stay because they felt the urge to contribute to the cause; others come because they can benefit from being part of the community.

So keeping in mind what Michael said, and looking at these people who post “10 Things you should know on blablabla” links in discussion forums. The area where they are posting, is a community, and there are, most likely, some people who benefit from reading the posts. But are these posters really helping “contribute to the cause”? Or are they just generating noise? I know what I think…


  • Community vs. Social Network
  • Social Media and what it’s about
  • online communication
  • Online Communities
  • What You Get From Signing Up To A Social Network
  • The Implications of Social Media

"We use Google…to find out about our own company"

Using 3rd party tools to find what I wantYou wouldn’t believe the number of times I have heard people say that when they want to find out about their own company, they use Google

Case in point – I was at a well-known appliance store the other day, that has branches throughout the country.I asked the girl at the checkout whether there was a store in one particular city. While she looked furtively at her screen, I took a peek over her shoulder. It was the company’s intranet. I advised her to open up a new tab in her browser, go to Google, and type in the name of the store plus the word “branches”. She obediently followed my instructions, and two minutes later she was able to give me an answer.

I won’t talk about the magic that Google performs to bring you the information that you want. I do want to talk, however, about why people are going to an outside facility rather than using the companies own resource…findability  and usability.

Findability does not just mean being able to search for something and getting results. It also means that the information on the intranet is structured in a logical way that allows people to navigate to information quickly. Often, little thought has gone into the way information should be presented:

  • What information do the users (in this case all staff ranging from back office workers to those at the client interface) need access to?
    Analytics will show you what is being accessed the most. Well thought surveys can return valuable information. Even talking to staff members individually,or in groups, can add a lot of value.
  • How can the navigation structure be set up so that it is intuitive?
    Use the feedback you got. Perform a card sort to help build up a understanding of how the staff want information grouped. Put together a “mock navigation”,using a suitable tool such as Optimal’s Treejack, and see how easy it is for user’s to find what they are looking for.
  • What other ways are there that the information can be accessed quickly? Short-cuts, quick links, FAQs.
    Create a screen mock-up, and test how easy it is for staff to find the information. Use a tool that allows this to be simulated on-line, and set up real-life scenarios involving staff members with different functions to determine whether improvements can be made.
  • Pay attention to the questions that are often asked by staff.
    These will usually turn up questions that get repeatedly asked. “How is xyz done?”, “Where do I find information on our widgets?”. These questions make up the basis for the FAQs or a wiki.
  • What’s the Best Way to Train New Intranet Users?
  • A short history of intranets and what’s next with social, mobile and cloud
  • 5 Critical Aspects Of Your User Experience #UserExperience
  • Social Intranets, the Lemming Curve and ‘Down With People’
  • Using The Sharepoint Intranet Portal
  • 5 Views on Intranet Trends for 2014


The history of the tablet

Clay Tablet (c 4000 BC)

Clay Tablet (c 4000 BCE)

Modern Tablet (c CE2100)

Modern Tablet (c 2100 CE)