23 Sept 2008

Web site usability at Folio Show

Folio Show 2008: Report from Colm O'Callaghan

I have the good fortune of being able to attend the Folio Show in Chicago (http://www.folioshow.com/) where the latest trends in the magazine industry are being discussed, debated and analyzed.
The most interesting first impression is how much attention is paid to the web and the use of video on the web.
I mean, this is a conference on the magazine industry and everyone's talking Twitter, Facebook, information architecture of websites and the like. Of course, the reason is that the magazine and newspaper industry is under pressure, particularly in the US and for magazines to survive, they need to create a new presence on the web and they all want to know how to do it right.
And the key to success is unsrurprisingly not to try and copy the magazine on the web but think about the web’s attributes and work from that perspective rather than adamantly following brand values, logos and colours that the magazine has been using.
The pre-conference workshop was led by Cia Romano, CEO of Interface Guru, who was at pains to point out the importance of planning if you’re going to get your website to work, whether you’ve got a magazine or not. And Romano uses a simple but effective method when analyzing websites. She calls is Usable Times 5. This is a cognitive sequence that people go through when they hit a web page. It's basically the questions they ask themselves when they first land on a site.
So, if you've just designed your new website, get a few outsiders who know nothing about it to go in and ask themselves the following questions.
1. Where am I? (does the URL, heading and main headline say the same things? Is it clear who owns this web page)
2. What do I see first (and the bad news for us writers is that people rarely see text first. Images rule the web)
3. What can I do here? How interactive is the site? What functions are there?
4. How relevant is this?
5. Speed. This is not just a question of your broadband connection but if you have to fill out a form or carry out some task on this website you will want to know how much time you think this is going to take.

We're into day two now in Chicago. I guess they're going to talk about magazine specific topics at some point! Then again, there's always a blues bar to go to.

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