Typing scared

from the latest issue of Digital Web Magazine Tutorial: What’s happening? A new look at Web pages “Those […]

from the latest issue of Digital Web Magazine Tutorial: What’s happening? A new look at Web pages

“Those new to the Web and to computers are scared: Scared of viruses. Scared of pressing the wrong thing. Scared that pornography will “happen” on their machine. Scared that their credit card will suddenly show charges because they’ve accidentally bought something.

When people are new to something common sense often flies out the window — the brain is fully occupied processing the new information. And when they are new to these magical and powerful devices called computers they will happily suspend all disbelief. Of course charges can appear by magic on your credit card just because you looked at a Web page, just because you viewed an item at a shopping site.”

It’s a nice way to remember how it was when you first started using computers (can you remember that far back?)

So let’s play a game. Your name is Sam. You are a 52 year old typesetter. You smart, college educated, and a bit artsy– after all, you are keeping this great old art of hand made books alive! And your daughter just bought you a computer. Sarah got it for Christmas. She set it up, ran the wires, and even ordered an earthlink account. She then showed you how to dial up, and made yahoo your start page. And she told you there are great pages showing old books online.

So here you are, you’ve been looking at it all week, and it’s been looking at you. You fire it up. You try to dial up, it doesn’t work, it wants a password. You put in your pin number instead of a password. You realize that can’t be right. You call up Sarah to ask what the password is again, you try to dial up, and it fails again. You call Sarah, she asks if you typed it in exactly as she said, capital letter, small letter, number and so on. You say no, you hang up, you put in the password they way she said exactly… you’ve learned you have to be careful if you want to go online!

So you click on the explorer icon.

Um, that’s not quite useful…. you scroll down.

you decide to try arts, since that is more or less what you do, you try book sellers, and suddenly there are a lot of hopeful looking links– people who sell antiquarian books, art book, etc.

Now you visit these three. When you arrive, can you tell what each site does? Did you arrive there by mistake? What would you click to look at rare, old and hand made books? Which might charge your credit card?

Now be Sam and visit your website.


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  1. 3
    Paul Nattress

    You can also go a few steps further and create a few personas. Not every user will be like “Sam” (although most of the non-industry people I know are pretty much like Sam).
    Create your persona archetypes from the results of usability sessions.
    Has anyone tried this technique in a real-world example? What did you find out? What do you believe your return on investment was?

  2. 4

    I’ve been using personas for awhile now, and I find them invaluable. I usually create 3 for most small sites, though 5 or seven, or however many are needed to represent different user types. I’ve never created them *from* usability testing, though we’ve used them as guides for recruiting. And we’ve used quotes and reactions in tests to then further enrich those personas.

  3. 5
    Paul Nattress

    I imagine that if one company only had the resources to conduct a single usability session then they could use the results of this session to create personas. They could then do what I ‘d call “second-best” testing – simply put, use your best judgement, along with the results of the previous usability session to guess what the personas would want fromt he site and how easy you think they may find the tasks.
    Not a very water-tight technique, but when you’re on a tight budget a good guess is better than a stab in the dark.
    So, I believe it’s possible to get *some* results from what amounts to an heuristic evaluation based on the behaviour of fictional personas (who are based on real test subjects).

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