December 12, 2006 - Do Not Read This!

We are working on an early version of JUnit Factory and we learned some very alarming lessons about web usability this week.

The main lesson: no one reads anything.

We sent some in-house invitations to employees as a trial. I watched a few people over their shoulders and, when they received their invitations, no one read a single word of the email. They just clicked on the link. The wrong link.

Lesson 1: There should only be one link in the invitation.

There was a bunch of text in the invitation explaining that it was by invitation only and they would have to register to accept the registration.

Of course, no one read the instructions so they were confused by the login page that popped up because they didn't know their password.

Lesson 2: No one will read the instructions

At this point, most people started clicking wildly and as far as I know, no one thought to go back to the email to read the instructions.

Some found the registration page by accident but, since that asked for a password (and 'confirm password' like most registration pages), it just made it even more confusing.

We tried a few things to make it simpler.

We culled all of the unnecessary text from the email and put a HUGE LINK saying "Are You Registered?" above the button that takes you to the demo. No one even saw it.

I have read stacks of books on web usability and I have seen all of the statistics on the percentage of people you lose every time you ask them to register/login/follow instructions/read anything but I still found it humbling to watch people get stuck. Only a few made it all the way through to download the eclipse plugin.

In the end, we decided to redo the whole thing and get rid of the requirement to register to see the demo. We will also make it clearer that the demo is just a demo and not the real thing.

The new site will be up next week, and we'll be sending out invitations then (let me know if you want one) but, for a short-time only, you can still see the old front page.

Be careful though. It's confusing.

Posted by Kevin Lawrence at December 12, 2006 07:20 PM

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Get a copy of Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug.

Posted by: Jason Yip on December 13, 2006 01:01 AM

Just added it to my wishlist. Thank you!

Posted by: Kevin Lawrence [TypeKey Profile Page] on December 13, 2006 03:36 PM

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