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Is your website user-friendly?

Posted by    |   October 9th, 2008   |   No responses

At Insight Designs, each month or so we host an In-house Insight, or knowledge share. Everyone in the office gathers for lunch and one of us makes a presentation on something we find interesting that we think the rest of the staff should know about, too. This week, I made a presentation on web usability. And I thought it was worth sharing with the outside world. Here's an excerpt of my presentation: Web Usability is important because it alone will determine the success or failure of a website. The visual design should be thought of as merely a means to deliver a message to the user. There are plenty of sophisticated usability studies out there that involve a plethora of participants. Analysts study their moves and make recommendations for changes based on the mistakes the users made. It would be nice, but we obviously can't do this for every site we make. However, there are plenty of things we can do to make our sites more user friendly. For Instance, we can measure a user's impression of a page using a quick "5-Second Test." A few years ago, usability expert Christing Perfetti came up the with idea during the development of a site for Fidelity. Site creators wanted to see how users interpreted crucial content pages. The test has been used on many sites since. It's a valuable test because it's quick, easy to conduct and renders results immediately. It works like this: 1. Identify a critical page of content on a website 2. Show it to a user for only 5 seconds 3. After 5 seconds, remove the page and ask the user why they would use this page. For example, the Red Cross would probably say the main goal of their website is to drive donations. So, let's go to the donations page on the Red Cross site and conduct our own 5 second test. Think: What would you use this page for? What does it tell you? In five seconds, users can identify exactly where they need to click in order to make many different kinds of donations. This clear list of links resulted in an increase in donations after the site was launched. Cons of the five second test. 1. Doesn't work for the home page. Mainly because it's hard for the user to identify the essence of a company in 5 seconds. It would be better to use quick task-oriented tests on the homepage. For example, you would take the user to a home page and tell him to "sign up for a newsletter" or "get support for a printer problem" depending on the nature of the website. 2. Our biggest challenge to in-house usability testing is the learner affect. We are all so smart we all have a really good idea of where things are supposed to be and what they do. Interesting fact: In 2004, about 40% of people visited a homepage and then drilled down to where they wanted to go and 60% use a deep link that took them directly to a page or destination inside a site. In 2008, said Dr Nielsen, only 25% of people travel via a homepage. The other 75% search and get straight there. ( What can we do to make sure our sites are more usable? First and foremost, we can think about the user. Most usability issues arise from designs that are too complex. Less is almost always more from a usability standpoint. This doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice design. For example, this shoe site got high usability ratings: This design would be considered user-centric or product-centric, meaning the design of the site is based on the design of the product, which is clear to the user because there is nothing to fight for their attention. There are only a few navigation options and no dropdowns. There is a clear call to action at the bottom of the home page. Note: there is some debate in the usability world about the use of white text on a black background. This is usually not a good option for a site with a lot of copy. The Shoe Guru site doesn't have too much copy, so the contrast works just fine. Call-to-action statements are an increasingly important design element. Users are
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September Wrap-up

Posted by    |   September 30th, 2008   |   No responses

September has been a busy month here at Insight Designs. Among other things, we:
  • redesigned a site for -- a Denver-based market research company that pays web users to take online surveys.
  • created a site for -- Ed is a Boulder-based competitive triathlete and coach.
  • launched a new look and feel, plus added catalog functionality for an existing client -- a Colorado-based wholesale distributor of billiard supplies.
  • developed an instant download ecommerce system for -- a Golden-based developer and reseller of earth science software.
  • took over hosting, design and updates for three luxury hotels in Mexico -- Mezzanine, La Zebra Beach Cantina & Cabanas, Casa de Las Palmas Tulum Beach House. Don't they make you want to go on vacation?!
  • and as Nico mentioned in an earlier blog, we crafted a campaign called "Clean Bottles for a Clean Sport" and developed a single-page shopping experience that allows people to purchase a water bottle and support the Garmin-Chipotle Professional Cycling Team and their efforts to keep cycling drug-free.
Shew! More fun to come in October!
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Social Networking and the 2008 Presidential Election

Posted by    |   September 26th, 2008   |   No responses

It's fair to say that the 2008 Presidential Election is unlike any other in the way they're using technology. To gain support, both Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain have used the Internet, including social networks such as,, and Benefits of Social Networking:
  • Interactive, real-time polls: MySpace and the Commision of Presidential Debates have teamed up to create MyDebates, an interactive site where users can actively engage in the political process. The first debate is tonight -- Friday, Sept. 26th, and MyDebates will provide live video and short poll questions that users can respond to during the debate. Also, questions can be submitted online and may be selected for the second presidential debate held on Oct. 7 and hosted by NBC's Tom Brokaw.
  • Personalize messages: Candidates have been sending out personalized messages through Twitter and Facebook, as well as emailing and texting. These interactive messages are used to make the public feel closer to the candidate and be aware of his progress in the election; they also fulfill our society's need to have news available immediately.
  • Online Discussions: The Facebook boom within the last few years has acted as a popular forum for political discussions in the 2008 election. The pages of Barack Obama, who has 1,893,782 supporters, and John McCain with 536,466 supporters, both provide videos and photos, wall posts, discussion groups, and several links to other sites that allow the public to voice opinions and share information other users might enjoy.
  • Entertaining videos: YouTube has also been especially popular in this election. The content of videos ranges from the obvious candidate commercials to music videos, interviews on The David Letterman Show and impersonations of the candidates. What these sometimes-funny, sometimes-sappy, sometimes-light-hearted, sometimes-ill-hearted videos all have in common, though, is the ability to attract and engage viewers in political activism. The Barack Obama music video, "Yes We Can", has 9,827,006 views, 64,600 text comments and 29 video responses. It's great that a site like YouTube, where viewers watch videos primarily to amuse themselves, is also being used for the greater good of engaging the public in this election.
Drawbacks of Social Networking
  • Decrease in voters: There's a fear that because social networks may indicate a particular candidate has won the election before November 4th, many voters will not vote because they assume their candidate has already won. In reality, social networks are popular for a large portion of voters, but not for all. Good thing many online forums are constantly reminding people to vote.
  • Backfiring: Facebook, MySpace and YouTube all provide ways to gain support during the election, but these political discussion spaces can also backfire on candidates. U.S. National Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton learned this the hard way when he was bombarded with Canadians' complaints on his page regarding a statement he made about Canada's Green Party Leader Elizabeth May's participation in the televised leadership debates. As a result, Layton took back what he said about May.
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Support Clean Cycling!

Posted by    |   September 24th, 2008   |   No responses

Today we launched a cool e-commerce application for one of our clients -- the Garmin-Chipotle Professional Cycling Team. Being a bike racer myself makes it particularly interesting for me to work on their projects. And this one has had quite a successful opening day. They've raised over $4,000 for their pro team, their under 23 team, and their junior development program in just a few hours, with their "Clean Bottles for a Clean Sport" initiative. The website is a single page shopping experience designed to make purchasing a bottle, and supporting the team, super easy. Insight Designs came up with the "Clean Bottles for a Clean Sport" slogan, and programmed the single page shopping cart. Check it out, and if you want to support America's coolest cycling team, buy a bottle or two!
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Congratulations Ellie & Tim!

Posted by    |   September 23rd, 2008   |   No responses

Ellie Childs and Tim Romano were married Saturday, Sept. 20 in front of 250 family and friends in a gorgeous field with horse pastures behind them and Boulder's famous Flatirons in the distance. The newlyweds were nice enough to invite the entire staff of Insight Designs. My incredibly talented business partner Nico Toutenhoofd did the photography. He's responsible for the photo above. I nabbed this shot of Nico in action with his lovely photo assistant (and wife) Sarah McKenzie. The bride and groom -- and the weather -- were spectacular. A few of the Insight crew attendees from left to right -- Keith Harper's wife Jen, Kelly Ehret, Ethan Stemm, Carlos Real, and Carlos' wife Ana.
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