Jakob Nielsen Mentions Bad Usability Calendar in Latest Newsletter

Just a quick note. Jakob Nielsen mentions Bad Usability Calendar in his latest newsletter, and links to our Norwegian friends at NetLife Research that originally published it. I’m publishing all of the newsletter text below because his past newsletters are not available online.

More info:

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox for February 12 is now online at:
> http://www.useit.com/alertbox/government-nonprofit.html

Although the gains don’t fall into traditional profit columns, there are clear arguments for improving usability of non-commercial websites and intranets. In one example, a state agency could get an ROI of 22,000% by fixing a basic usability problem.


Usability Week 2007 conference

> Hong Kong, March 5-9
> Washington, DC, April 22-27
> London, May 6-11
> San Francisco, June 18-23

In-depth training:
> 3-day Intensive Camp: Usability in Practice
> 3-day Immersion: Tog on Interaction Design

10 specialized full-day tutorials:
> Fundamental Guidelines for Web Usability
> Application Usability (2 days)
> Intranet Usability (2 days)
> B2B Sites
> Websites That Sell
> Presenting Company Information on Corporate Websites
> E-Mail Newsletter Usability
> Writing for the Web

> http://www.nngroup.com/events


Bad Usability Calendar

A calendar designed to look like a subway map? Good or bad usability? Bad. As shown on the “bad usability calendar” produced by a Norwegian usability company as a promotional stunt. Every month is horrible – but in different ways that each illustrate a classic usability guideline.

Download, print, and hang on your office wall to prompt conversations with visitors who don’t believe in usability. If they like these layouts, then there’s no hope to cure their UI.

> http://www.iallenkelhet.no/bad-usability-calendar-2007-is-here

(Violating yet another usability guideline, the file is formatted to print on European-sized paper, and there doesn’t seem to be a version designed for American paper sizes. It’s easy enough to scale the printout, even though it doesn’t look quite as good.)


Design Advice for Real Estate Sites

Two New York Times articles about the experience of real estate agents in making effective websites read like a summary of my findings from testing e-commerce sites: good photos help sales more than almost anything, and clear product info is much better than videos of blabbering agents.

“Making Every Pixel Count”
> http://tinyurl.com/387nxv
In this article, I particularly recommend viewing the before-after photos taken by amateurs vs. professional photographers. It’s clear what house you’d rather spend you weekend seeing.

“Forget Gimmicks: Buyers Want Numbers”
> http://tinyurl.com/2qw6jj

Every industry has this feeling that “we are special” and that the general lessons of Web usability can’t possibly apply to them. Of course, there are special issues for real estate sites (say, how to present a floor plan), but a lot of the usability issues are going to be very similar to those of other sites.

At least in the case of real estate agents, they seem to finally have discovered (some of) the usability guidelines through their own experimentation. But it’s sad that they lost hundreds of millions because of bad sites during a decade when the guidelines for what works on the Web have been easily available.


Heds Nixed

Nice story on how newspapers are finally rewriting their headlines for online use:

> http://news.com.com/2100-1038_3-6155739.html

14 famous headlines (e.g., “Sticks nix hick pix”) that don’t work on the Web:

> http://news.com.com/2100-1025_3-6155618.html

It’s only nine years since I published the guidelines for headlines and other microcontent. Better late than never.

> http://www.useit.com/alertbox/980906.html

More detailed guidelines on which words to pick:

> http://www.useit.com/alertbox/search-keywords.html


Super Bowl Commercials: Good Video, Bad Web Presence

The Super Bowl is not just the main sporting event of the year in the United States, it’s also the biggest advertising event. Search Engine Watch has two nice stories on how the advertisers utilized the Web as follow-up for their $2.5M spots. Mainly poorly:

> http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/070205-093332
> http://searchenginewatch.com/showPage.html?page=3624892

My favorite was Blockbuster (video rentals). The only commercial I actually rewound on my DVR to watch again was “Mouse” in which a rabbit uses a poor (real) mouse as a computer mouse in the attempt to get onto blockbuster.com (squeezing it, dragging it, etc.). Animal rights fans may deplore the maltreatment of an innocent rodent, but it was all done by computer animation.

> http://www.ifilm.com/video/2819648

According to TiVo statistics, this was only the 7th most replayed ad. But after 24 years using mice and even more years reading papers about pointing devices, I enjoy making fun of computer mice. It’s certainly a sign of the times that we now have instant data on actual user behavior as a way to judge the impact of commercials. But remember that replay data only shows whether ads were entertaining, not whether they successfully sold the advertised product.

Two days after the Super Bowl, a Google search for “Blockbuster mouse” (without the quotes) didn’t find *any* entries for Blockbuster’s website in the first-page organic listings. Blockbuster is as clueless as the companies criticized in the Search Engine Watch articles I linked above. Well, *almost* as clueless, because they do have a sponsored link. Of course, with better SEO, they could have gotten those clicks for free.

Worst of all, when I click their “Blockbuster mouse” ad, I don’t get the Blockbuster mouse. I get their generic homepage, violating the top rule of search advertising: don’t link your ad to your homepage; use a deep link to the thing your customer was searching for.

Blockbuster also had the only ad that made me want to buy the product: a hard-hitting comparison with Netflix that claimed that the two services are the same, except that you can get your movies faster with Blockbuster because you can also go to the store in addition to using the mail.

I suspect that Netflix has a better online user experience and would be the better choice since I would rarely go to the store. Still, Blockbuster’s ad emphasized a true benefit of their offer in terms that were easy to understand and remember. The challenge is now up to Nexflix marketing to find ways of making usability into a product feature and explain to prospects why their site is better in simple terms that normal people can understand.

I couldn’t find Blockbuster’s TV commercials on its own site, which is why I linked to IFilm above. Having your current commercials and an archive of old ones is one of the better uses of video for corporate websites. Blockbuster failed this simple test.

Nielsen Norman Group, 48105 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont, CA 94539 USA

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6 Responses to “Jakob Nielsen Mentions Bad Usability Calendar in Latest Newsletter”

  1. Jesper Rønn-Jensen Says:

    BTW, Jakob probably read about it here on justaddwater.dk :)

  2. Eidar from NetLife Research Says:

    Thank you Jesper and Justaddwater.dk. This is great!

  3. Bad Usability Calendar 2007 is here! hos IAllenkelhet - Fagblogg om brukervennlighet skrevet av NetLife Research Says:

    […] Update: As Jacob Nielsen pointed out in his latest newsletter; “Violating yet another usability guideline, the file is formatted to print on European-sized paper, and there doesn’t seem to be a version designed for American paper sizes. It’s easy enough to scale the printout, even though it doesn’t look quite as good.” […]

  4. blog.reis.se » Bad usability calendar 2007 Says:

    […] It also got mentioned in Jacob Nielsens news letter as Jesper at justaddwater points out. […]

  5. 1 år i all enkelhet! hos IAllenkelhet - Fagblogg om brukervennlighet skrevet av NetLife Research Says:

    […] Usability Calendar for 2007 har stått for den i særklasse største andelen besøk, særleg etter omtalen i nyheitsbrevet til Jakob […]

  6. Knowledge Work - Bad Usability Calendar Says:

    […] Bad Usability Calendar My Norwegian friend Eidar just wrote to inform me that their company (Netlife Research) has finally released Bad Usability Calendar 2008. Last year, the calendar got quite popular and even Jakob Nielsen mentioned it in one of his newsletters. […]