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No Thinking Allowed

Don't Make Me Think is an unusual book for me to read. I am not a designer, not by any stretch of the imagination. When it comes to User Experience, I know how to build things, but have never been too concerned about the effect things have on users. That is exactly why I wanted to read this book: to understand my co-workers better and for all of those projects where I have be both a designer and a developer.
It did not take long for me to understand the title of the book. If people have to think about what they see in a web page, then their site is not being effective. Being a very technical person, I am used to thinking. Or so I thought. Once I started thinking about the points being made in Don't Make Me Think, I started realizing that I don't like to think either.

To give some of the principles a try, I decided to pick some sites and think about how much they make me think and how well they use things like conventions, graphics, etc. to help me not think. There was only one problem with this idea. Most of the sites I tried this on were sites that I visit a lot. For example, if I took some e-commerce sites that I use a lot like eBay, Amazon, and NewEgg, I am so familiar with these sites that there is no thought. It is a loaded question. I know these sites  way too well. Now maybe that is because each of these does a lot of good things for a User Experience, but that would be speculation.

So I decided to pick some new sites instead. I wanted sites that I had never seen before. So I went to TechCrunch and picked some new startups that they were covering on there. The first site I tried was MyHeritage.

The first thing I noticed here was a big box at the top of the page talking about their new photo tagging feature. Now I have never been to MyHeritage before, so I don't really know what is new and what has been around for awhile. Anyways, the box had a lot of text in it, which seems like a bad thing. They have a link to "Take a Tour". Once I started to write this blog entry, I clicked the Take a Tour. It was like a registration wizard, only it was all informational.

Now that I am becoming a usability expert, this is what I would suggest to MyHeritage. First, is this feature the most important thing on the site? Let's say it is, because of its placement at the top of their home page. It is hard to imagine people clicking through five pages just to learn (not try) a feature. They should make a video of it and just put that on the home page. People could learn about their feature with little effort (thought.)

All of that being said, there are some good things about their home page. Forget about the new feature box. They do a good job of putting a simple form that you can fill out to start your family tree. I think they could improve this by making it have less information. They only require first/last name, email, and father's last name. They could hide the rest. I would even hide the father's last name until you fill out the rest, and then have it appear. Or somethng like that.

Their genelogy search is not too bad, but could be easier. It asks for language, first and last name. I guess the language is needed, but they should definitely combine first and last name. Also, they have links for different languages at the bottom anyways, and you don't have to select a language for creating a family tree. So it really seems like they could get rid of the language box for search. Just have a search box and nothing else.

Of course if you actually do a search, you don't get very far before they ask you to register. This is not a usability issue, but seems terrible to me anyways. How many sites make you register to see search results?

I looked at one more site from TechCrunch. This one was called SideTaker. It has nice navigational tabs at the top of the screen, making a good use of conventions. If you tried to post, they use an Ajaxy sign up screen. Again, I think it would make more sense to let people post and only ask them to sign up at the end. Once you've made an investment in creating some content, you won'y mind giving up your email address. One of the other tabs was browse and you could do that without logging in. They once again made good use of conventions showing a cloud tag, recent, popular, etc. These are newer conventions that people are used to using to help them wade through large amounts of content. Their search bar was ok. There was one text box and two drop-downs, but everything was phrased as part of a sentence. Viewing a dispute, it was easy to read and tell who said what (nice use of blue/pink people and quote bubbles like from a comic strip) and you could vote easily (good use of Ajax.)

This is a silly site, but it seems to be well done in the DMMT sense.

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