Usability at Women.com - Part II
A follow up interview with Bill Skeet, Director of Network Architecture at Women.com
Conducted via email by John S. Rhodes (28-Jan-2001)
What kinds of usability tests do you do? What were the results? What did you find?
We've practiced heuristic evaluations and have hired firms to recruit and perform one-on-one usability. We've also hired a firm to perform eye-tracking in conjunction with traditional usability. I could tell you the results, and what we've learned, but I'd have to shoot you! HA! Actually, what we've learned ranges from a lot of minutia that wouldn't interest many other folks to some tidbits that are truly original and valuable enough that other companies could use it.
OK... One tidbit: A recent study has affirmed an old mantra of mine: Every page is a front or "home" page. Probably nothing new to many, but the saying was born from my frustration about how much time the organization spent obsessing over details on the home page while the design of the pages deep in the site (article pages) were ignored. Meanwhile, to the users, these pages deep in the site were the goal or destination. Many people actually entered through a link sent to them from a friend or a search engine or some other "backdoor". To these people, the article literally *was* their "home page." It was burdened (or not) with representing the brand and the breadth and depth of the site. The content page must attempt to offer more information that would encourage this person to stay a little longer and check out the site. These pages were every bit as important as the root or "home" page of the site.
We've been fortunate thus far to be able to point to traffic increases... The correlation between traffic and revenue is pretty well accepted in our company, so I haven't had to sell it hard. We've also been applying usability on design projects that were already approved and we've simply made the case that a round of testing will help catch some mistakes before they go live... and we've done the usability fairly inexpensively. So it's remained under the radar thus far... I'm trying to keep the organization positive by publicizing results such as a 25% increase in traffic for one of our sites within 24 hours of a redesign. And we're talking about an additional 25% on a site with thousands of page views a day.
We're doing about the same. Right now, we are working on some large-scale projects that touch broad parts of the company... essentially superseding the need to test other parts of the site.
The home page of Women.com and Astronet. And I expect there's more to come.
OMG, yes. It would take some time to write the stories and change the names to protect the innocent and guilty (and myself!)
Here's a quick summary without details:
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