Usability of University Websites

The Guardian reports on a usability study of UK university websites:

As universities begin to gear up for this summer’s Clearing season, when they hope to field inquiries from thousands of candidates still without a place, a piece of market research shows just how out of touch many of them are. They are, in a word, too academic, full of swaths of information that leave web-surfing students bored and irritated. That is the verdict, at least, of a company that sat down two groups of first-year sixth formers and asked them to find information on university and college websites.”

Read the article (via Louise Ferguson).

AJAX Interaction Demos

More on the opportunities and interaction challenges of AJAX via Jeffrey Veen.
Jeffrey points to the work of Bill Scott of Sabre Airline Solutions who have put some code and demos online at
By the way, if anyone is doing this kind of work in NZ, get in touch. I’d be keen to get involved from a usability and interface design perspective (as in: I’d be happy to offer my services for *cough* free in return for a good case study).

The danger of too many features

Another great article and illustration from the folks at Creating Passionate Users about the dangers of featuritis:

What if instead of adding new features, a company concentrated on making the service or product much easier to use? Or making it much easier to access the advanced features it already has, but that few can master? Maybe what they lose in market share in one area will be more than compensated for in another area. In a lot of markets, it’s gotten so bad out there that simply being usable is enough to make a product truly remarkable.

Accessibility – Myths and Misconceptions

There are so many things I would like to address about accessibility, and I will get round to it eventually, but in the meantime here’s a good roundup of the issues, and some good reference sites: Accessibility myths and misconceptions (456 Berea Street).
One of my favourite resources to better understand the issues (instead of focusing on scoring items off a checklist) is Skills For Access: the Comprehensive Guide to Creating Accessible Multimedia for E-Learning

ROI of user-centred design

The following article is a nice little case study demonstrating the value of using a user-centred approach to software development. The Return on Investment (ROI): 90% less calls to the support centre, and as the articles describes:

No matter how trivial, every support call has some costs associated with it. Installation should be easy, and initial use should be intuitive.”

The bottom line […] is straightforward: focusing on the design of the product had a significant impact on the cost of supporting the product.

Of course, there’s a very positive sales benefit to this, too: ProtectionPilot’s UI design has already generated favorable reviews in the U.S. and Europe, with ease of use a common theme.

Read the article: Clean, Cutting-edge UI Design Cuts McAfee’s Support Calls by 90%