Thursday, October 19, 2006

Card Sorting and Usability Testing - Part One

In the past couple of weeks, I've taken part in two practical exercises which have really hit home the importance of involving real users to improve the information architecture and usability of a website - and how the two are linked.

The 1st was a Card Sorting exercise while at a UPANZ seminar on Information Architecture by David Pomeroy, and the 2nd was sitting in on some Usability Testing sessions run by Optimal Usability. I'll cover Card Sorting today and the Usability Testing later.

There is plenty written about cart sorting in IA books and websites but I had never read a good definitive article, nor had the chance to take part in it. Although the exercise was really simple my take on it is that it is an exercise using a series of cards, each labelled with a piece of content that make sense to particpants (users). It would be great when creating a site map and helps identify the following:

  1. How users see the information
  2. How different groups of users react to the content
  3. How many categories of information are there
  4. What the categories should be called

I think it is an easy exercise to sell to clients because it is Simple (Hey - if I can do it... it must be), Cheap, Quick and involves real live users.

Since then, I've looked for good articles and this is one of the best on the Boxes and Arrows site. Card sorting: a definitive guide

I'd love to hear others thoughts or experiences...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

How do I enhance my businesses reputation - without being obvious?

Recently, a colleague of mine posted on his blog how customers can leverage the internet to communicate dissatisfaction with a businesses products or services to a huge online audience, it's potential negative effects and how this makes good customer service even more critical to successful business.

Well - I think that's what he meant anyway.

There are examples of New Zealand websites that are dedicated to this. E.g. where punters can review the work of sparkies, builders and plumbers etc for all to see. Along with the real horror stories, there are some great reviews of Tradesmen who had provided excellent customer service - which has got to be great for business.

However, I ask - how can a business leverage the internet to enhance it’s reputation and increase sales or grow it's business - apart from just providing better customer service?

I could create a Blog and rave about my products and services - Many companies already do this to good effect with ’sponsored’ blogs by exployees and evangelists. E.g. Microsoft, Oracle.
But the web user is pretty sophisticated nowadays, and take what they read with a grain of salt.

Are there more effective, less obvious ways of increasing a businesses reputation?