No one ever tells jokes about ergonomy and usability testing!

Picture from Josh Janssen, under the CC-BY-ND license

So, i heard you were having a hard time trying to get your clients or your associates to figure out how ergonomy and user experience matter so much on your web project? And i heard you can’t get them to realize why usability testing is in most cases an ultimate solution for it?

All in all, you would agree, there are three kinds of projects:

  1. those who had usability testing during the prototyping/conception, and are a close match to the target users’ expectations
  2. those who had a single ergonomy expert, who is nothing but an attempted replacement for usability testing (ergonomy experts are nothing but people who guess as well as they can what the usability tests could have turned out to say)
  3. those made by people who believe they can guess usability testing results as well as, or even better than ergonomists!

If you are involved in the latter, know that i understand your sorrow, and i cry for you…

But do not panic! For here i am standing before you, arms wide open, with a peaceful solution: no shouting, no hassling from the PM (oh i’ve been there too!), just a plain old little joke.
One little joke you should keep in mind to make ergonomy and its drastic importance understandable to whomever you’ll tell it to.

And of course, the joke is of the “man walks into a bar” kind of jokes, because they’re my favorites!

Ladies and gentlemen, THE joke !

A man walks into a bar, and firmly intends to drink a lovely pint of stout and have a fun time!

“Drinking a pint and having a fun time” are the goals this client is having. Reliable usability tests are first done by defining goals users might have when visiting the website, and the paths they might have to take to achieve them; those goals are closely related to the use cases that have been set during the UX conception phase, if it was done properly.

He walks through the bar, crossing a few very different-looking rooms, avoiding the few tables and chairs that are standing in the way, and eventually finds himself at the counter.

Less-is-more designs are not only hip, they’re also meaningful. Your website shouldn’t have more than what it needs, and blank spaces give meaning to non-blank spaces. Also, you should look into minimizing the amount of templates you have; your user will be thankful to travel through always familiar settings.

He then proceeds with choosing his order, but finds the board of beverages to be quite far away and hard to read. “Hmm, this light green chalk on a dark green board sure looks pretty!” he grumps in irony.

You will find that quite often, usability and accessibility have much in common. By making your site more accessible, and easier to browse and read in accessibility-needing situations, you will also make it easier to use in most situations. And having a great typography type / size / contrast is definitely part of it (you know many things, but you don’t know your user’s screen resolution!)

He thinks : “Oh well, i will simply ask the bartender”, but ends up failing to get anyone’s attention. He’s right before their faces though, but they seem to just ignore the poor guy!

Feedback, god dammit! If your user is doing something and you didn’t tell him you took it into account, you’re doing it wrong. This goes double with anything done with Ajax requests, for the browser doesn’t especially show the user something is going on in the background.

Disappointed with not being able to order, he decides he meant to use the bathroom anyway, and follow the “men’s room” sign to another room… which has another “men’s room” sign! Which leads to another room with another “men’s room” sign, which leads to… the room he started this little trip in! “Ahah, what crazy adventures!” he says with an annoyed tone, before giving up and making his way back to the counter.

Goals again! And mainly, their ability to be supported by the navigation menu. Having a user click three times to do an action 90% of your users will be doing anyway is a highly common mistake. Remember that the navigation menu’s purpose is not only to offer a short map of the content, but mostly to get the user’s navigation as natural as possible whichever page he’s visiting.

As he finally get someone’s attention, he finds himself very pleased to be able to ask for a Guinness! But the barman answers: “Neh, we don’t have that!” – “What do you have then?” – “We don’t have Guinness!” – “Yes, but what d…” – “We don’t have Guinness!”. “Well”, he thinks, “at least, this is clear”

Please, please, please, please plan on a smart 404 page! If your user is asking something weird, then he’s probably lost, and it’s not his fault! Helping him find his way to something meaningful will be greatly appreciated.

“Well, give me any stout!” the man says. “Do you know we have cheap orange juice?” the guy says. “Good for ya. I still want a stout.” – “And did you hear about our discount on ciders?”

Monetizing your website is very fine, but should never get in the user experience’s way! If the user wants something, then he should get that something as easily as possible. If you want to show him ads when he’s getting that something, it’s fine, but it should in no way prevent him from getting that something in the first place. Yes, even if your finance department is heavy on your shoulder. Maybe you should get your finance officer to talk with your ergonomist (and if you don’t have one by now, hurry up making your mind, because the joke is almost over!)

“Ok then, but are you married?” – “What?” – “We like to know who we’re serving to, it’s good for our stats. By the way, what are your three last known adresses?”

Believe it or not, but you’ll be happier asking few questions to your users. Users will only consider your form if it’s short; so even if you love user information, be aware that the more you ask, the less you’ll get!

“Can i get my stout or what?” he finally asks with a tough tone “Alright, alright…”, the barman says.
Two minutes later, the barman comes back with a big piece of beef steak. The guy says “why on earth are you giving me a steak?!”, and the barman says : “well, i forgot to tell you earlier, but this is a butcher’s shop. But we’ll probably be remaking the whole shop again soon to clarify that.”

… AHAHAHAHAHAH !!!

What do you mean you don’t think it’s funny?

IT HAS TO BE FUNNY! I told it to myself earlier on, and i laughed a lot!! And i’m exactly similar to the end user of that joke, aka yourself, am i not?!…

… am i not?…

And the pub-owner/butcher/whatever, he’s no different to the end user of his shop, right? So the way he imagined his shop MUST work on other people just the way HE knows it would work on himself, RIGHT?

Well, maybe i should have told this joke to a few friends, and asked them what they thought of it before publishing it on my blog…
And maybe the owner should have asked a few of his friends to come check his shop out before he opened it, and should have noticed what would seem to confuse them.
And maybe there’s a reason why the latest e-commerce website you launched, despite a satisfactory amount of visits, shows an insane bounce rate (people don’t stay), and a conversion rate (people buying stuff) that is oddly disappointing.

Long story short: maybe all three of us should have tried usability testing, and all of our situations would somehow seem a little funnier, wouldn’t they?