Internet World 2007 (2nd May 2007)
This was the first conference I’d attended. What an event!
Johan and I travelled there by train on 2nd May from Aldershot to West Brompton with a change at Clapham Junction.
Accessify Forum was used for arranging to attend. The venue was Earl’s Court 2, which I noticed has an amazingly big roof while I was there. Their website says it’s the largest unsupported span in Europe and I can totally believe it.
A presentation from Human Factors International about usability. More managerial than technical but still interesting to watch.
- Co-ordinating large enterprise projects was made easier by meeting with all the key stakeholders to work out the goals right at the start.
- User testing right from the start.
Johan and I found the theatre for it quite late, so we had to stand in the aisle. Luckily we’re both fairly tall so the other plebians didn’t get in our way too much!
A fairly boring presentation about how tiny changes to the wording of buttons and headings can cause dramatic changes to how many people buy from that websites.
- Don’t guess or speculate. Test, test, test.
- Tiny changes can have a big effect.
- Radical changes can increase conversion rates by ten or more times, if done right. Of course, theirs is the company which knows what is “right” in this case.
We left after the first 15 minutes to go and see the next presentation.
The supermarket I buy from, which my parents buy from and which my mother’s parents bought from while they were alive.
The scheduled speaker couldn’t attend so we got a woman from Foviance, a company Tesco worked with a lot for doing the research. She explained this rather apologetically at the start. I started a round of applaused for her out of sympathy once her introduction had finished.
She asked if there were any questions. I asked if she’d be discussing accessibility and she winced! Apparently it wasn’t her speciality which is fair enough. I decided to let her off and accessibility went unmentioned throughout the presentation. If it had been the real speaker I’d have been tougher.
Use of eye-tracking studies on paper catalogues found Tesco’s red sales star thing drew attention from users. They applied these to the website and confirmed the same behaviour.
We stopped off at the AbilityNet stand. Chatted with a woman there about accessibility, user testing, their quarterly audits of various industries and so on. Made me feel pretty good to talk to such experts on a level playing field. I couldn’t have imagined that would happen just a few years ago!
At the WebCredible stand they had a couple of laptops and were offering free mini-audits of usability. The woman there had just finished with another person so we got straight in.
Johan went first with eTeach. She mentioned that it wasn’t particularly friendly for scanning the page. After a few other comments I asked if there were things she thought had been done well. She immediately went to the main navigation and, after a few clicks, complimented it.
Johan also showed her ScotEdJobs which was a more recent design he’d done. This was considered a lot easier to scan. Her attention was drawn by the clickable region map and this produced more compliments.
Calthorpe Park School is the only site where I do the design as well as the nuts and bolts. (Well, calling it “design” gives it more credit than is due but you get the idea.) So that’s the site I decided to try out with her.
We chatted about it at great length and I teased out a lot of practical advice. She really knew her stuff! We went back and forth with the user goals of our audience and the orthodox solutions to accomodate them. Reminded me of how I can look at a page of HTML and point out improvements.
I jotted down many of the things she pointed out. I’ll reproduce them here as HTML rather than an image because my handwriting is dreadful.
- Put a picture of the school on the homepage to make it instantly recognisable to new visitors.
- Use the homepage to summarise what you can see and do on the website.
- Introduce the four most notable categories, such as:
- News & Events
- Letters Home
- Students’ Work
- Provide some sort of “more of this” link with each introduction.
Main suggestion was to make this brighter and more fun. This is something we’ve wanted to do from the start. But since we can’t afford a proper designer I’m reluctant to try doing bright stuff in case it looks garish. Better pictures would help, though.
- Provide a short page for each event. Could summarise what it is about, logistics and who to contact.
- Navigate using a more familiar calendar metaphor. I wasn’t quite clear how to do this, but a month view grid was probably what she was getting at.
- Add more images to make the events seem attractive and worth attending.
Impressed by WebCredible
All very sound advice and all for free! Hopefully we can get a lot of this stuff in, especially the homepage improvements.
There seemed to be nowhere in the venue or nearby to eat proper meals. I like to eat. A lot. Next time I’ll get a taxi to a restaurant or something.
I also met Phil Smears (founder of sdesign1 and boss of me) while I was there. Didn’t expect him to look like a football hooligan. What a day!