Looking over E-Zekiel.com’s 2006 award winner for the most usable site, I had to ask myself, what would Jakob do – or anyone else without the most recent version of Internet Explorer equipped with the Flash player?
Catching up on some old ideas for posts, I came across a link where Nathan Smith writes in a post entitled ‘Fleecing the Church:’
“I’m sure that the E-Zekiel guys think that they’re doing their best. I mean, there’s no definite wrong-doing going on, other than the fact that for a fraction of the cost, you can get a much better setup …”
Indeed, after visiting E-Zekiel.com’s 2006 ‘First Place Winner for Best Usabiity‘, I had to ask myself “what were the guys at E-Zekiel thinking?” Well, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, they answer that question for me over on yet another page:
“The Best Usability category sought easy-to-use and well-thought-out E-zekiel sites that offered visitors a logical means for obtaining information. Creative and smart use of navigation, panels, body copy links, and imagery were among the factors considered.”
Compare the above to what the epitomical preacher of usability polity Jakob Nielsen has to say on the topic:
“Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word ‘usability’ also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process.”
Okay, the differences in what both parties said isn’t so glaring, so let’s dig a bit deeper using the following metrics the good Doctor offers in his already quoted article entitled “Usability 101: Introduction to Usability” where he defines usability by five quality components:
- Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
- Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
- Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
- Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
- Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?
Taking these above metrics and running them against E-Zekiel’s 2006 ‘First Place Winner for Best Usabiity’ (ahem): the First Baptist Church of Lubbock, Texas.
Hmm … right way, I’m having a problem accomplishing basic tasks for the first time I encounter the design … it appears that much of it was built to heavily leverage the use of Adobe Flash player on an Microsoft Internet Explorer browser. Not so entirely bad, had there been more conspicious warning up front rather than having to scroll down to about pixel 810 (in a 1024×768 browser resolution mind you) to find this light gray warning in small text against a dark and light gray checked background:
I’ll admit, I guess it should be immediately learnable that something is wrong when I set out to discover the church’s theology by virtue of their sermons – which although the latest and greatest is podcasted, I’m still unable to find the in print archives.
For the even simpler and even more common task of determining the service times, I guess I should have known to have clicked on the link of the same name – rather than the bolder and brighter link to “Visiting with us?” just above. And though both give me similar – but not the same – not so scannable text describing the services and times, it wasn’t until I scrolled down my still common among church folks 800×600 setting on the former page that I got the more recognizable and easy-to-read service day/time enumeration that most individuals are expecting to see.
That said, once I efficiently lock-n-loaded my MSIE, Flash enabled browser, no lie on the first try, I was treated to this memorable experience that proves the aged aphorism “a picture is worth 1,000 words:”
Well, aside from the aforementioned Flash-snafu, there are other navigational nuances I found, that if not an error, at least in need of recovery:
What else is there to say about a site whose markup threw-up 46 HTML 4.01 Transitional errors?
If you want satisfaction go back and click on the image under ‘Memorability‘ … otherwise, I offer this personal opinion of said creative, smart use of navigation, ‘body copy links‘ (whatever those are) and/or imagery … go ahead … go to the website and click on the first two links of the classic E-Zekiel icon help and see how far they take you:
So what’s my point in all this commentary? I think I have to agree in some degree with Nathan’s original point in the article initially cited. For the money multi-tenant software as a service companies such as E-Zekiel are charging, it is my humble opinion that they should perhaps rethink their definition (if not the spelling) of ‘Usabiity’ … perhaps either by re-factoring their widgets and what-not against various free, easy, and sometimes government sanctioned, ‘Step-by-Step Usability Guides‘ and/or ‘Reader-Friendliness Checklists.’
Either that – and again depending on what you charge versus your return on investment – just open up an account with BrowserCam to test one’s canned ‘navigation, panels, body copy links, and imagery.’