Monday, July 28, 2008

Usability is not just about flashy animations...

I was browsing the IKEA web site in order to find a suitable carpet for my living room. For this task you need two basic information:

1. the size of the carpet
2. the picture of the carpet's texture

Typically, the previews show the carpet's texture but in the IKEA's web site they do not include the size that it is shown when clicking on the item's preview.

This is a very simple case of usability issue that can be easily solved. It is not about the appearance of the web site but just about what information is relevant and useful for navigating the site.

If the web site is an e-commerce portal, then this issues can result into a loss of revenue due to the increasing customer's abandon rate (i.e. the user visit the site, tries to make a purchase, but the task is boring or too difficult, or just it does not find the necessary information to make the purchase).

If you want to check whether your site have usability problem you can ask help to a usability consulting company such as SimpleUI with which I am currently collaborating.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Romania... still much to do!

Dear readers,

I am back to Romania for holidays. Last time I was here Romania was not yet member of the European Union. Now, it is almost 2 years of membership.

Many things have changed so far, but unfortunately it is mostly only "surface". Only "visible" things such as make up of few buildings, flags everywhere and prices up to European standards.

But fundamental things still remain to improve. As an example of this, we travelled from Iasi to Nasaud (near Bistrita, the city were we live) with a train that crosses the whole country from east to west up to Timisoara. It is a very important railway line, especially because there are no flight connections between Iasi and the other west-side cities (e.g. Timisoara, Cluj-Napoca, Tirgu-Mures, Oradea and Arad). Travelling by car is almost impossible because of unmaintained mountains roads, always populated by huge trucks.

We travelled in first class on one of these old "blue" trains:

It was a nightmare!! If it is acceptable for adults to travel on these trains it is unacceptable if you are travelling with kids. It is so uncomfortable, dirty and definitively dangerous!

I don't understand why, at least for these important connections the Romanian government did not change the train cars. I am not asking for luxury cars, but for something decent. Yes, of course the train fares are cheap compared to other countries, but everyone here would spend just a little bit more in order to have a decent train journey.

In contrast, much effort has been put on the Romanian railways web site. Of course, no trace of the old trains. Only the new trains that connects Bucharest to few cities such as Iasi are displayed.

Of course, someone else complains (in Romanian)... It seems that people here accept the situation and whenever it is possible find alternatives to cope with this problem: buy a SUV and travel by car, basically!