Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Practice what you preach got me thinking today.

It is the website of a usability consultancy specializing, between other things, in flash. It is written in flash. It is also one of the least usable sites I've ever seen.
Curious to see how many in the Human Computer Interface industry practice what they preach, I decided to randomly sample sites of usability consultancies and see how many of them do.

The sites were chosen at random from two huge lists found in sites of usability organizations by googling.

Here goes: - An average modern business website. Some of the fonts too small in my opinion, and half of the large image on the top is clickable, which I'd never have guessed. Non-standard link color with no real justification. Writing is concise, which is great, although I'd try to put some kind of pitcher on what HCI is in the main page, not only a click away. I must give it to them on the "Are you here to..." - it's a great thing to do and the execution is also great. They wrote the things people look for, not the dry headlines that come up first when you think what to put on your site:
  • Understand our approach
  • Prove return on investment for our services
  • See our team
  • Find our offices
  • Cut the jargon: HCI, UCD, Usability etc
That's the one thing they have which is really characteristic of HCI centered thinking, and I like it. I don't agree with choosing to use a drop down menu, but that is a design choice that is completely legit. - Their main page attacked me. So much content crammed in a small font. Wait up! Who are you? What do I want from you? I cannot figure that out in a look, and I also can't figure out how to figure it out. And the menu didn't render well in Firefox. - First page is an empty gate. About page has four paragraphs. The only relevant and interesting one is paragraph 3, and it's unreadable because of an image in the background. The portfolio has relatively boring clients at the top and the interesting ones (banks, telecom company, the EU) are buried after the scroll mark. Orange of testimonies made my roommate scream. Literally. And I tired of reading the first one halfway through. Orange on white just doesn't work for text that's supposed to be read. They sure didn't complicate things, I must give them that. Very simple. But no mercy on my eyes. - I had to increase my font size twice to be able to read comfortably. I won't say more - if I was a potential client, I'd not increase font size but instead close the tab and move on. - At first I thought that they have a nice web page. It took me a while to realize that there is a menu system. The fonts were a wee too small. What is it that people have about cramming data? There's also some overlap in the enu system (about->services; services->overview) so as a user I don't know where to find what I'm looking for. But in general the site is ok, once you notice that there is a menu system.

None of the sites really impressed me. Remember, though, that this is an arbitrary sample and says nothing rigorous, and that ranting is far easier than designing something that works.

Still, this is my rant about my favorite industry.

How would YOU design a website for an HCI consultancy?

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