Start Up Blog

The new usability experts

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 19, 2011

Are not who we expect them to be. It’s not Jakob Nielsen or even Steve Krug. In fact it is Joe Citizen.

Without even realising it, the average web surfer or smart phone addict has become an expert in usability. This doesn’t mean we could ask them what a sight should look like, how it should work or to advice us of any design imperatives. it’s a little different than that. But have no doubt, they are the experts. And their expertise is different. it is more like this – they know what sucks. They will not tolerate a site that sucks for more than a few seconds.

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We have entered an age of mass usability expertise – and this has been driven by social media. As entrepreneurs and aspiring startup geeks we have to remember the training our users are getting. They are being trained on what is ‘best practice’ by the worlds best – brands like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Google, Foursquare. Brands with the greatest UI’s ever seen are training the everyday person on what good looks like. Even if it is occurring at a subconscious level. It is happening.

The impact of this is significant. For me it puts flow first, and features second. The flow of the site and intuitive nature must be put above all other technology and feature desires we have. If we fail with our usability, there wont be a second chance to win back the experts who’ve already decided we don’t cut it.

Screen Culture

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 29, 2011

TV was the first entertainment screen in our lives and belonged in the living room. And it stayed there for the best part of 30 years before it multiplied. Slowly, it made it’s way into the other rooms of the house. It was linear and unidirectional, but it was also the start of a new culture. A culture that would shape more than entertainment.

In less than 20 years since the birth of the graphical web, screens in all shapes and sizes have started to pop up all around us. They’ve made things simpler, easy to understand, and just made life better. So much so, that screens now permeate virtually every aspect of our lives.

I call it screen culture.

And it’s much more than TV, web browsers and smart phones. It’s every screen we see. All web enabled, all around us and consumers expect the screens to serve them without a hitch.

They’re in our pockets, they’re on our desk, the car dashboard is now a screen, on the back of airline seats, the airline check in counters, supermarket checkouts, shopping centre directories, in all retail spaces, in the back seat of taxi’s, bus shelters, community spaces. They exist where ever communication and commerce does. Every machine now has a screen. Every time we interact with technology, the interface is increasingly screen enabled. And we often attend to multiple screens concurrently.

The more we learn about the screen, the more it learns about us. The best screens can be manipulated, touched, caressed, controlled and even spoken to. It’s our job to humanize the screens so that they are culturally sensitive. They need to intuitively know what we want… and lead us to that solution. The interface has to be the instruction manual. Screen culture demands that we teach people “how”, while they interface. That the learning, and the solving, happen simultaneously. The screens need to serve us. We must be able to navigate the tight spaces of the small screen, if we can do this, then conversion to the big is easy.

This can only happen when we design as humans, not technologists.

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