Blogs and Usability
July 22, 2005 at 2:23 PM
The Catalyst Group Design has published A Study of Blogs and Usability. The results are rather interesting but expected. If anyone has been to a BJ Fogg presentation you'll know that we need to start moving towards a philosophy of radical simplicity in the design of our sites. We can't simply expect people to understand RSS or Blog IA, we may have to re-think how we go about implementing RSS technology (especially if it's going to be embedded in the OS) and IA for blogs (especially if we expect average web users to be able to navigate them).
I haven't stepped over to read the article yet, but I find this view somewhat puzzling. Other than some unnecessary (and sometime downright silly) jargon like "trackback" and "ping," I find blogs to be among the easiest of interfaces to grasp. You post a short message, like that one, I reply with my opinion, like this one. Seems pretty straightforward to me. ~d
Well, no matter how hard I try I can't get my dad and his astronomy friend to post to one I setup for them no matter how many step my step instructions I give them. If they can pass the 'mother test' (i.e. your mother can use it unassisted) then its user friendly in my book.
I think CpILL is right here... though, I don't think my mom would have problems, but several of my uncles and aunts may... certainly the grandparents will. And I am not even talking about publishing material to a blog, I am just talking about user level stuff like reading RSS, posting comments, navigating to the archives, etc. It's a strugle and I think people who build websites need to take a close look at their site's audiance and make sure they are building close to the level at which their users will understand.
The usability study and the message is gives us is completely accurate. I have been doing web/software interface design since 1999, and run a small design firm. I only know about blogging and RSS because I make it a point to read publications like Digital Web, who are using this technology. It is even hard for me to understand all the details of how it works. My opinion is that there is only a very small percentage of people that do. How are ordinary people supposed to know what "XHTML" or "RSS" means? Educating people and letting the end user know whats its really about is absolutely necessary for this technology to actually take off.
I did some research on this, and in particular the RSS thing. What I discovered was pretty shocking. Check out the results of this phone survey conducted by Pew Internet: Public Awareness of Internet Terms. That was all the motivation I needed to publish a tutorial that explains feeds in layman's terms: What is RSS?