Don’t Make Me Think! Analyzing ilams.org 

While reading “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug (2006), a fun and fast read, I couldn’t help but think about a project I’ve been working on for some time.  I’m excited and nervous that Aaron Schmidt is allowing me to use this project for my User Experience course work.  Applying Krug’s usability concepts is an excellent step forward for this new website…

ilams.org home page

ilams.org home page

First, let me explain the project.  I saw a need for an online space for people I was meeting at conferences for tribal and indigenous information institutions to stay connected and decided to try to do something about it.  To gain an understanding of what ilams.org is about, you may view this 2.5 minute presentation. 

I’m not a web designer or a computer programmer and am new to these concepts since learning HTML and CSS in a library course Spring 2012.  In fact, I’m fortunate that Mike Robinson, programmer and the Head of Library Systems of the UAA/APU Consortium Library, has been extremely generous with his help.  I played around a lot with this site before deciding to go back to basics…that is, how the site needs to function in order to meet the basic goals of the community.  So, I returned to the default theme, in spite of its weaknesses, for simplicity and sustainability, since adding another layer to the WordPress and BuddyPress layers can quickly complicate functional customizations. 

I made a test profile so the site could be explored without registering.  The UN is “test” and the PW is “atalm”  Give it a go and let me know what you think…

Krug’s first law of usability

“Don’t make me think!” Meaning the site should be self-explanatory. (2006, p. 10)

ilamslorg header

ilams.org header

Site ID    iLAMs is an acronym (Indigenous Libraries, Archives, and Museums) that is only explained in a post, but nowhere else.  It reminds me of how annoyed I was when searching what the acronym of an organization meant on their site; I didn’t realize I did the same thing!  The capitalization of LAM is simply to emphasize the library, archive and museum aspect, but since it has been questioned, I wonder if it should be changed to all caps.

The same header text shows on each page, but the site ID is not an obvious link to the home page.  The only thing that changes when hovered over is the cursor (to a pointing hand). 

Tagline  The tagline is a bit too long (coming in at 15 words vs the suggested 6-8), but without it, ilams.org would completely fail at making its purpose known. 

A community for those who work in Libraries, Archives & Museums that serve Indigenous Peoples” which could be changed to:  A community of people in Libraries, Archives & Museums serving Indigenous populations.

Naming  Unfortunately, the function of the home page as a community blog is not obvious because it is not stated anywhere.  Reading Krug, it dawned on me that it should be titled “Community Blog,” have “Community Blog” as the hover title or be called “Community Blog” with “Home” as its hover title.  It will take some playing around with to see what makes the most sense, but somehow, it also needs to be made clear that joining allows one to post to the community blog.

add friend?

can we change this?

You have to login to see this, but the one name on the site that I am not happy with is that of “Friends.”  BuddyPress does not allow for customization of this label, but I would prefer a more professional name, such a “Connections.”  A plugin to change it exists, but it is really out of date and the web development for both WordPress and BuddyPress are too dynamic to rely on outdated installations.

Krug’s second law of usability

 “It doesn’t matter how many times I have to click, as long as each click is a mindless, unambiguous choice” (2006, p. 41)

Navigation  Menus have been on my mind.  The default theme provides tabs in the header and I decided to use drop down menus in spite of my concern that not all of the options are evident and they need improvement.  A major failure of the header tabs is that they do nothing upon hovering, clicking, and the change in color is a bit too subtle (I think I’ll change the text color).  This emphasizes Krug’s suggestion that the page title is important to site navigation.   At least the navigation is consistent.

Breadcrumbs  Some features, such as groups, can get buried, so a breadcrumb plugin might be useful.

easy access to important links

easy access to important links

Clickable  I also attempted to make it easier for members to post to the blog, access their extended profile.  I realized that I need to make some changes here too.  I’ll add a link for direct access to groups joined, with a title of “My Groups” since it will also be a frequent visit.  I’ve been considering creating buttons for these links to make them more clickable, too.  I added a link to the WordPress profile in the footer login widget and am debating on whether or not to keep it or if it is too confusing…

Utilities  The login space is easily accessible on all pages in the same place and is also made available at the bottom of the page to prevent the user to scroll up to login should they be at the bottom of the page. 

The search bar is located prominently in the header on each page and offers simple three topics to search through.  I wish “Posts” was the default search setting.  The site isn’t large right now, but as pages get added, it will be important to offer a sitemap utility.  Another search bar is located next to the login widget in the footer and shows up if a page is not found.

The site also needs a simple easy way to report issues.  It isn’t good enough to offer it at the bottom of a page. 

Krug’s third law of usability

“Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left (2006, p. 45).

Too Wordy  I am a minimalist at heart, but I use too many words.  (It’s no surprise I’m also terrible at telling jokes!)  So, this directive really applies, which means each page needs to be re-examined for its static content…and I know where to begin.  I felt the information requested to join needed to be explained on the registration page since people are actually registering for WordPress as well as BuddyPress and all the names are confusing.  I thought I helped by adding text, but I added too much and need to rethink and simplify the registration process.  It also occurred to me it may need to be included in the tabs.

Look at all that text!   tl;dr

Look at all that text! tl;dr (too long; didn’t read)

It wouldn’t hurt to take another look at the About page too.  One thought is to take the “Why Join” section from the registration page and add it as a child page to the “About” drop down menu.  I anticipate adding child pages for the organizations that I hope will support use of the site, so this may need some reorganization.

So Much To Do 

Having worked on this site for so long, I realize how important it is to have fresh eyes look at the site when I can actually observe them, rather than relying on verbal or written feedback as I have been.  Krug’s point that every question that the user has about a website adds to their cognitive workload that distracts from the task at hand is important.  Caring enough to make it easier to figure out, build user confidence and trust builds a stronger relationship with the user and makes a website more meaningful.  An important challenge is to make the site mobile accessible. 

Krug, S. (2006). Don’t make me think!: A common sense approach to Web usability. Berkeley, Calif: New Riders Pub.

Advertisements