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March 13, 2008

Usability is important. period

I wasn't sure if there was a blog requirement this week as it didn't say in the moodle and last week there wasn't one as our writing energies went into our drafts, but I just wanted to bring up how I think usability is very important. You've probably heard of the well-known saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Well, pertaining to usability, someone could say, "If it ain't usable, don't use it."--It's more like, "If it ain't usable, it can't be used." The statement is profoundly true! That's why I think usability is so important. What I found really alarming in one of this week's readings was when I read, "When the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) undertook a survey of over 1,000 UK websites in 2004, it found that eight out of 10 across all industry sectors failed to comply with even basic accessibility standards. (Everett, 2006, p. 1)" That's 80%, and if I did my math right--800 out of 1000--therefore, only 200 out of 1000 complied. This was in 2004, so I'm only hoping that the rates are improving. Moreover, it was written in the same article, "But another study undertaken last year for the Cabinet Office by AbilityNet, a charity that provides a range of services to help disabled people exploit computers and the internet more effectively, revealed that the situation had improved little. (Everett, 2006, p. 1)" Since the article was from 2006, the latter study must have been in 2005, a year after the 2004 study. With positivity, there's an improvement! The focus was on UK websites, so I wonder how US compares. Regardless of it being UK or US or Egypt or India, usability should be regarded important anywhere in the world.

Thanks to our friends across the border at UW-Madison, Web Accessibility 101 is a good guide to understand web accessibility/usability. Nielsen's Usability 101 site also gives us ways on how to improve usability.

Also in Nielsen's Usability 101, it is explained why usability is so important: "On the Web, usability is a necessary condition for survival. If a website is difficult to use, people leave. . . . (Nielsen, 2003, p. 1)" We definitely don't want site visitors to leave--period--and the website being difficult to use is not a good reason why a site visitor should leave because we have the power to be good information architects to build a site to have it be easy to use and not have people leave. Nielsen continues with why usability is important: ". . . If the homepage fails to clearly state what a company offers and what users can do on the site, people leave. If users get lost on a website, they leave. If a website's information is hard to read or doesn't answer users' key questions, they leave. Note a pattern here? (Nielsen, 2003, p. 1)" Yes, note the pattern of leaving. On that note, I myself am leaving. Well, I am not leaving for good; I'm closing up this blog and "leaving". I leave you with this final thought: Usability is important. period