Getting Web 2.0 Right

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

The poorly defined “Web 2.0” is the hot trend among websites these days, and for good reason: Web 2.0 sites tend to deliver quality content, ease of use, and stylish looks, all creating a good user experience. But how difficult is it to achieve this goal? As it turns out, it’s a short walk between a good idea and a terrible user experience.

Over on Appreciator, Jami wrote a review of two sites that ask you for reviews:GarageBand and Yelp. Both of these sites are what I would consider to be good ideas. GarageBand lets you discover new music that you don’t know about. Yelp is like CitySearch… Yeah, I’ll leave it at that (CitySearch has its own problems that I won’t get into here). So they’re both good ideas, but as Jami points out, they create awful user experiences. Read her blog entry to find out why.

So what makes for a good user experience? Everything I said at the beginning of this post: quality content, easy of use, and, to a slightly lesser degree, stylish looks.

Quality content is so, so important. In talking about GarageBand, Jami points out that it has to be good content; no amount of crappy content will satisfy users. But quality content isn’t just about having good content; you have to provide a good amount of good content! Last year at work, they were tossing around the idea of a Spokane restaurant guide. Someone said that they only wanted to include restaurants on the site who payed to be there. I quickly pointed out what a terrible idea that was. Think about it: If you went to a website that promised to tell you about restaurants in your city, but only listed half (or fewer!) of them, would you stay on that site for very long? Would you ever come back? For the majority of users, the answer to both questions is no.

Ease of use is exactly what it says, but it isn’t as simple as it sounds. In his book, Don’t Make Me Think (which, by the way, is also his first law of usability), usability expert Steve Krug says, “when I look at a Web page, it should be self-evident. Obvious. Self-explanatory. I should be able to ‘get it’ — what it is and how to use it — without expending any effort thinking about it.” I could go on and on about usability and ease of use, but I really just suggest reading Krug’s book (it’s fantastic, easy to read, and funny).

Stylish looks, while not super-important, are still something that need to be considered. After all, a website that looks like OS X will easily be chosen over one that looks like it was made in 1997. It’s a sad truth, but if your service is really that fantastic, you need to spend the money to make it shine (no pun intended).

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4 Comments

  1. This is totally off subject, my apologies. Where did you that director’s chair of yours? Of if it was a gift, is there any way to track down the origins?

    BTW: You’re totally right about stylish looks. If the looks of a website are not up to par with modern styles, I will skip over it and think that they’re just not trying hard enough, are not knowledgeable about the ways of the internet are spam sites or something like that.

  2. The director’s chair was a gift from a friend. She got the chair and canvasses at World Market, but I’m not sure where she got them screened.

  3. michelle

    hey mr. thomas.

    are you doing any freelancing stuff these days? I may have an opportunity for you, if you are. Looking for more designers at the company im with.

    m

  4. Happy anniversary (yesterday)!

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