Usability is a piece of cake …
According to Jakob Nielsen’s latest alert, “Usability is like cooking: everybody needs the results, anybody can do it reasonably well with a bit of training, and yet it takes a master to produce a gourmet outcome”.
Not sure if he’s stealing that one from ozEworks or Ratatouille but it sure sounds familiar.
But read his account of website usability design and testing and it gets more jaded.
“Although multi-star gourmet restaurants are wonderful, there’s also a place in the world for modest neighborhood restaurants. Similarly, you should sometimes hire a second-tier usability firm or even a third-tier local consultant instead of bringing in a world-class usability firm. Most design projects include many workman-like, everyday usability activities that the lower-end guys can do well enough”.
Of course world-class is a reference to his own company. It is the rest of us that are “lower-end” guys – the blue collar workers … picking up the crumbs from Neilsen’s table perhaps?
Regardless, the underlying message remains true – you need to consider usability when it comes to design and testing. A website is a tool not a picture, it is supposed to achieve an outcome not an award. So as much as the graphic design needs to be engaging, it is the user interface design that determines how usable the site actually is.