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The Designers Dilemma

One of the problems with Web designers is that they often design to satisfy their own creative egos rather than the needs of their end-users. They forget that real people will be using their sites. Today’s designers need to worry less about winning awards and more about creating Web sites that actually deliver the information that people are looking for …quickly and easily.

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Technology Changes. People Don’t.

Sure, my Mom is better at navigating the Web today than she was 5 years ago. But not much. So even though technology has made quantum leaps in the last few years (AJAX, XML, the DOM, etc.)…the basic needs of people and how they behave has remained the same. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard fellow designers say, "They’ll figure it out, people are used to surfing the Web now! They like to experiment!". Wrong. If you think your users will need to "figure it out" then you’ve designed it wrong and need to go back to the drawing board. Just because people have faster Internet connections, big fancy hi-resolution monitors, and wireless, laser-accurate pointing devices (mouses?) doesn’t mean that human nature has changed.

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What is Usability?

Let’s begin at the beginning by answering this simple question. Usability is simply how easy it is for a user to understand and operate your ‘thing’ and accomplish their goals. This ‘thing’ could be a Web site, a car, a refrigerator, or an MP3 player…it doesn’t matter. What matters is that your customer immediately understands how to work with it without having to read the user manual. The ‘learning curve’ should seem invisible and users should feel delighted with the ease-of-use and the efficiency of completing their task.