Some musings on usability

Gideon2 Gideon There seems to have been a thread on usability running through my head this last 24 hrs. I had lunch with Beverly Clarke of Virgin Media at the Crazy Bear in Whitfield Street. So much to talk about and so little time – but it took me a good few minutes before I found said Crazy Bear because there were no signs. It turned out that the sign was on the floor outside of the restaurant. The maitre D said as if explaining to a stupid child – we don’t put the sign in the usual place because we’re the Crazy Bear. The loos there were an extravaganza with water cascading down the back of the urinals from ceiling height for dramatic effect – I daren’t take a picture for fear of being arrested and you really wouldn’t appreciate a picture of me urinating however glamorous the surroundings. But the loos were also hidden behind a secret door. They had a member of staff permanantly stationed to direct newbies like me.   Which got me pondering about how stupid – why not have signs like everyone else? The point is that if you decide you’re going to take better care of your customers – you provide experiences which they are more likely to remember – when you know where the restaurant is and where the loos are the sign is largely redundant. Building a space for loyalists is a great idea. So I abandoned the idea of going of on a grumpy rant and gave credit where credit was due. Most client companies wouldn’t dare.

And first thing Friday morning before I caught the train back from Manchester I was back with usability. This time with the Gideon’s bible in my hotel room. Trying to design a standard interface to help newbies find their way into a 2000 year old book. Now that’s a challenge. And faced with their tables of problems and links pages – I was left wondering whether they had got around to researching them at all.  There were links to citizenship and marriage (don’t get divorced) It was bizarre in the extreme.  As an experienced user I couldn’t get my head around this newbie interface and suspect that very few of them could get around it either. Though at 6am I was fresh out of ideas about how I could build a better one.

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I conclude with a piece of light relief. Is this brilliant usability – or is that guilt stricken – they made me do it furtively because there were no towels? Much more interesting than towels though..



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