I noticed recently that Kentish Town Health Centre, which is my local health centre, was shortlisted for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize 2009, and I have to confess to a secret satisfaction that it didn’t win.
Various articles on the awards shortlist describe it as “uplifting for both staff and patients” and ask the question “why can’t all health centres be like this?” Well the answer is, because it’s not that easy for people to use.
The entrance is an airy foyer rising the full three floors of the building and centres on a ‘street metaphor’ that runs right through the building creating, well, two entrances. So there’s a problem already. I’ve seen people look around disorientated about which way they came in.
And the ‘street metaphor’ itself. If I’m ill why do I want to wait in a reception area that is a street? Wouldn’t I prefer cosy, enclosed, safety?
The double entrance theme repeats in the two staircases up to the consulting rooms. Signposting is in the form of giant ‘G’, ‘1’ and ‘2’ painted on the doors so large that you don’t actually notice them. I have found myself completely lost in another part of the building without realising. And I’m good with maps.
Talking of twos, there are two waiting areas, one upstairs and one ground floor but it’s not clear when you should wait upstairs and when downstairs and I’ve seen doctors come all the way to the ground floor to pick up patients, which is surely a time waster.
One of the main features of the ground floor waiting area is a cafe which has mercifully not been open since its inception. A cafe? Around sick people? Whose bright idea was that?
Essentially the question I’m asking is, how can a building designed for human use (mostly when people are ill) be put up for a prize without actually finding out how people find using it?
For the past couple of days a few of us have been over at Earls Court manning the Webcredible stand at Ecommerce Expo. Trenton ran a presentation on improving online conversions and we got plenty of interesting people to the stand. So, all-in-all it was pretty successful, you can check-out some photos from the show on our Flickr photostream.
To coincide with the show, on Tuesday we also launched our 4th annual Ecommerce Usability report, looking at the usability of 20 of the top UK high street retailers. Marks & Spencer’s new website (launched last week) shot to the top of the rankings alongside last year’s winner WHSmith with 83 per cent. John Lewis, Woolworths and Boots also boosted their scores to make up the top five, all gaining scores of 80 per cent or more.
It’s clear that many of the top retailers are now really focusing on the user experience of their websites, but there are still one or two basic usability guidelines where many are still coming up short. However, with the average scores increasing substantially every year (73.3 per cent this year), we may have to look into adding some more advanced usability guidelines in the future, as ecommerce sites look to continue developing their user experiences.
Preparing for usability testing requires a surprisingly large amount of planning. Here are the 6 key steps you should go through to get ready.
Being the Office Manager at Webcredible, I’ve been surrounded with user experience professionals for over a year and a half now. Fed up with not being able to converse with any of my colleagues on the subject I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands!!
I recently read ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ by Donald Norman and ‘Don’t Make Me Think!’ by Steve Krug, both of these books have helped me to gain some basic understanding of user experience.
The first book I read was ‘The Design of Everyday Things’, and this really opened up my eyes to the importance of ease of use in design. By placing an emphasis on the things you use every day, it helped me relate to the ideas and concepts of user experience. The most interesting and perhaps crucial element I took away from reading the book was the idea of conceptual models, so simply matching the design model to that of the user’s model to create an easy to use design. The other significant thing the book highlights is that the designer is not the end user and should therefore design products and/or services with the user in mind.
The second book I read ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ is specific to web usability and really breaks it down for amateurs like me. The book in Steve Krug’s own words is a ‘common sense approach to web usability’ and focuses on helping you to understand your own web experiences. The book helped me to fully appreciate the role of our user experience consultants and whilst Krug does put an emphasis on common sense, like with many things it’s only obvious once someone has pointed it out to you.
‘The Design of Everyday Things’ and ‘Don’t Make Me Think’, although very different books have definitely given me a good understanding of user experience and I can now converse on a basic level with my colleagues. I am really lucky to have lots of passionate people around me who I can learn from and who knows I may even become a user experience guru in years to come!
Watch this space : )
Photo credit: Rocketraccoon via Flickr / Creative commons
Our recent local council website usability report found that many local council websites still have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to usability. However, it seems that Google now wants to help local councils with their online offering with its Local government resource centre.
Offered in partnership with Directgov, LG Communications and the Society of IT Management (Socitm), Google’s resource centre offers a variety of online tools designed to help local government organisations to:
- Make their websites easier to find
- Improve the user journeys on their websites
- Improve efficiency and reduce website costs
- Build revenue through their websites
- Help local business use digital to their advantage
The resources on offer such as Google Analytics, Website Optimiser, AdWords and AdPlanner certainly have the potential to be useful to local councils, but the question is whether the decision makers will see the value in and also get over any fear of using such an abundance of web-based tools.
Time will tell, but one thing’s for sure – the opportunity to save money through the resources on offer, and the strategic partnerships Google has developed for this venture could just swing its widespread adoption in the local government sector.