Notice anything different about this site? Christmas came early this year, when Christian moved my site domain to http://annehodgson.de, installed an updated version of WordPress, and migrated my content into it. I then spent the weekend trying things out and putting in the tags and categories you see on the right. What do you think? Can you find what you want? Do you find it more inviting? In short, is the site more useable?
Even a little update creates so much work. I don‘t know how much time Christian invested, he‘s very polite about these things, even when I delete things and don‘t see editor features that are staring me in the face. As for me, just to put things into perspective, while I was tagging and categorizing and experimenting away, Helmut made breakfast, lunch, and dinner – twice – , took out the trash, hung up the laundry, did the shopping, installed a new ceiling lamp, went jogging and had a long nap. Oh, and he also tested our cool new backup system. He has a Mac now, too, you know. We are officially Apple-poor. All that while I was wondering if the weekly podcasts should remain a category, only, or also be tagged, or why I can no longer change „songs“ to „song“ in categories without also changing the „song“ tag. Anyway, I quite like the end result. And the best thing about it is: I can change it if you tell me to. Yeah! So thank you for your suggestions.
This year has been quite a steep learning curve for me in terms of website useability. A few days ago I got this email from one of our MELTA (Munich English Language Teachers’ Association) members saying the MELTA website was not user friendly because of the separate login for the site and the forum, and didn‘t we do any useability studies? She also wrote that she hoped we hadn‘t spent any money on the site. Sigh. Well, I answered in a civilized fashion rather than making a voodoo doll, which shows that I‘m getting a lot better at anger management and more realistic about what you can and can‘t do, and what users need and want. Users are … users. They don‘t have to use your site. They‘re not cruel or stupid if they don‘t. Very little things can make the difference between their acceptance and total rejection of your site. I mean, at MELTA we‘re not happy with the double login, either, and made that choice based on cost, alone. At the time, rather than build our own forum, we decided to buy an external one. Well, our members are voting with their feet… or their keyboards, in this case. Unfortunately our website is hard-coded, which means that we have to live with what we‘ve got and can only make minor changes. We‘ll be meeting with Ben this week to check our options.
Good websites are a lot of work, and users are getting it all for free, at first glance. No wonder they want more and more and more. In face-to-face communication you can do so many things to win over people. Online all you have is code. That puts a hell of a lot of pressure on those responsible. But it‘s a good thing. The internet is one of those places where the market principle seems to be working, including the wonderful „Long Tail“ for niche products, which keeps my hopes up that my own tiny blog has a place in this world ;-).
I‘m very excited to be involved with Spotlight as the publishing house migrates its magazine websites. So many users to satisfy, what a challenge! Have a look at brand-new www.business-spotlight.de, just relaunched, the first of the Spotlight Verlag magazine sites to make the big leap. Others will follow. So, what do you think? Is it more useable?
- Required reading: the article by Chris Anderson, The Long Tail, Wired 12.10./ October 2004. Summary: Wikipedia.
- Customized service is clearly the way. But what about the costs? I think that giving the customer the tools to change the product him/herself is where we are going. Our do-it-yourself 2.0 world. Agree?