Monday, November 26th, 2007

Product pages: so much suck, so easy to fix

Category: Articles, UI, Usability

Now and then we weave the Ajaxian car into the designer fast lane from the developer one as we see something interesting. This time around we have Amy Hoy talking about product pages as an example of how to do good UX(P|D|).

She starts out with UX 101:

  • Be nice to your users and customers (and potential customers).
  • Design as if your main goal is to inform and educate.
  • Be honest and forthcoming, while you’re at it.
  • Help your users and customers to do what they want, not what you want them to do.
  • Be consistent with your message and quality of service (and I’m including software design here, folks).
  • Scientific, measurable “usability” doesn’t necessarily make for a good experience.
  • Good design makes people feel good.

And then continues to use these rules to rip apart landing pages for Opera and Firefox. You can see her red and green pens at work:

Posted by Dion Almaer at 5:10 am

3.4 rating from 46 votes


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Thank god. Someone has come out to do this. I have always emphasised the need of not forgetting the user experience when developing Ajax-based sites or even “stylish” sites.

What we do need to remember as part of any software/web/system development is to allow room for User Centred Design in the early stages. This could be the use of the UML Use Case & Scenarios documentation, or even other research methods for HCI-principles.

We must not forget the user.

Comment by Shahid Shah — November 26, 2007

Some of these remarks are good, some are not, but saying that Opera is not free… man, can’t he at least check the page before writing an article? The other thing came to my mind is yes, we can throw out the “junk” (this is distracting, that is distracting, this is not clickable, that is not clickable), but what remains? A huge product name with 800×600 one-click button? Try selling this “idea” to graphic deisgner (who might not be a “UI expert”) and you will be fired / out of business in no time.

Comment by deadcabbit — November 26, 2007

@deadcabbit: Please do read the entire article before commenting. It states that when SHE (as in Amy Hoy – female) tested Opera, there was indeed a commercial version, going for $29.

Comment by Andy — November 26, 2007

Opera may be gratis, but it is not free software.

Comment by Tim Cooijmans — November 26, 2007

As a developer that doesn’t live in UI designing as much as I would like this is a great reference article when setting up product pages.

Comment by Site Smart — November 26, 2007

the problem with the english language: free != free. it has two meanings ;)
So Opera is free, but not free ;)

Comment by DarkRat — November 26, 2007

for those ppl who still going after if Opera is free or not: Wake up, finish reading the whole article. It’s about the design.

@Shahid Shah: same here, thank god, someone is standing out.

What really bother me is that a lot of new sites today lean towards providing cutting edge functionality but misses the usability. What really attracts ppl to the site is not just because how bad ass your Ajax app is and absolutely not how good you can make a page look pretty. What really counts is how user friendly is your site, in another word “User Experience”. Your site doesn’t have to look top notch, as long as it has a good user experience flow, and looks elegant, ppl won’t bounce.

I love the opera example she made. The previous design was just a complete disaster. All the characters they came up with in the flash didn’t help them in any posstive way. When you landed there, all you see is that ugly flash which dis-encourages the user to continue on and click on the download link. That’s a broken user experience right there.

Comment by Simon Jia — November 26, 2007

Have you seen anything she’s designed? 1 word… dogcrap.

Comment by boodie — November 26, 2007

Alot of her pics and screenshots in the article weren’t clickable. Kinda seems like that goes against what she was just preaching about…

Comment by Tim — November 26, 2007

Have you seen anything she’s designed? 1 word… dogcrap.

Find me 1 usability expert who hasn’t ridiculed another one’s work as a means of making a statement. Find me 1 usability expert who has made a website which has not been criticized for its poor usability. Welcome to the real world, Boodie. In the dog-eat-dog world of usability, everything that is not yours is crap and every piece of crap can be made into gold in just 10 easy steps.

Comment by Jordan — November 26, 2007

I agree with Jordan on this one. Anyone can find, what they think are faults with a design or layout, it doesn’t mean they are right. Unless those design and layout changes have been tested and proven to show an improvement in what you are trying to achieve then they are pretty much worthless.

Comment by Matt — November 27, 2007

I’m wary of people who start off by stating “Scientific, measurable “usability” doesn’t necessarily make for a good experience.” No it doesn’t, but it’s a requirement if you want to improve the user experience. This statement often indicates the presenter doesn’t have the background to perform or understand good analytics – which is the cornerstone for any solid QA or iterative design process. Just look outside web design and you’ll see that competitive product design requires a scientific, measurable continuous quality improvement process.
It’s true that it’s hard to improve something that really sucks. It’s much easier to make something good excellent. So it goes that analytics aren’t the same as good design. Good designers and a good design are a required first step – but from the comments already posted it’s evident that something more than opinion is needed when evaluating design. This is something is usability testing, of which there is no mention of in the article. Any usability professional should know this.

Comment by Matt K — November 27, 2007

The point of the article isn’t about scientific usability testing. Most website producers don’t have the time, money, or resources to set up cameras, eye-trackers, and bring in dozens+ people, and monitor and interview them. And to say it’s necessary is like saying you have to get the opinion of every music listener before you are able to write a good pop song.
That said, you of course need knowledge of usability studies before you’re able to apply the logic. The author obviously has it.
If I had any criticism of the article, it would be that it operates under the guise that these are some basics that you can get by with. There are an awful lot of fundamentals that are assumed. The org chart is good, but without the further explanation of the importance of elements and how they should be displayed, through design (size, color) and placement (top, bottom, above/below the fold).

Comment by Mike Wilcox — November 27, 2007

Took a look at her website :

Comment by j4606 — November 27, 2007

It would be nice if those pictures were bigger.. (ironically the fact that they are so small breaks like half her bullet points)

Comment by Adam Gent — November 27, 2007

@Matt K, hi. Reductive analytics do not take into account user pleasure or emotion, merely utility and efficiency in performing a preset task. You can also use various psychologically proven persuasion techniques (aka “retail science usability”) to compel people to click on things, but that doesn’t help you carry-through to ensure they are happy customers. But it is this area that most “usability experts” (Nielsen et al) focus on, rather than the way people feel about the products. I’m sure you understand the field of statistics and what that implies about usability analytics.

Not to mention that only incremental improvements can come from measuring something that already exists.

@Mike, Future articles, maybe. I can only write so much at once and Vitamin has length requirements :)

@Adam, the versions I sent them were full-size. What can you do?

Comment by amyhoy — December 2, 2007

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