Friday, 7 September 2007

User experience

My colleague Karl Schneider is valiantly blogging from the dConstruct conference today and reading what he's writing I think I'm glad I didn't go. Not because it sounds dull or boring or anything, but because I think I'd be sitting there with my head in my hands thinking, "I wish".

I particularly like this post which reveals the answer to the question "What takes longer, heating water in a microwave for 1minute 10 seconds or heating water in a microwave for 1 minute 11 seconds?"

The answer is heating water for 1 minute 10 seconds. Why?

Because getting a microwave to run for 1 min 11 seconds involves hitting the same button (1) 3 times, whereas making it run for 1 min 10 seconds involves hitting 2 different buttons (1 and 0) - finding the extra button typically takes a user more than 1 second.
Now once I stopped wondering why anyone would heat water in a microwave in this way (it can be dangerous you know) and looked at the answer I was quickly back onto my hobby horse of User Experience. Many businesses and organisations still don't get it (try joining the National Film Theatre and booking tickets through their website if you don't believe me.

Quite often at work when I'm dictating my latest list of seemingly trivial enhancements to one of our websites, people will question whether they are worth doing. I'll bang on about how it will make the user's life easier and then they will respond with "But does it work?"

Hackles up. Wrong question. To me, functionality is just the hygiene of building stuff on the web. It's the project equivalent of washing your hands between urinating and tearing bread with your friends.

Today's internet users don't expect for things to just be functional; they expect them to be efficient, intuitive, fast and even fun.

In some far-flung corners of our corporation, there are even Heads of User Experience. I hope we follow their lead soon...

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