Observing customers using your site will improve usability
Living systems get constant feedback from their external environment. To truly succeed, Web teams need constant feedback from their customers.
You’re a manager in a restaurant. It’s raining. A customer walks in and almost slips on the mat in front of the door. You’re very busy at this stage, but you make a mental note: “I must change that mat.” About 15 minutes later another customer comes in. She, too, almost slips on the mat. You rush up to her, apologize profusely and then change the mat.
People are slipping on our websites right now but, because we don’t see them slip, we don’t change the mat. I’m one of the biggest offenders. Over the years I have left content and applications on my websites that had problems that I was vaguely aware of, but they didn’t seem important enough to warrant any action. Even when I became clearly aware of the issue I didn’t react with enough urgency.
Why was I so complacent? I would like to think that if I was running a restaurant I would have apologized to the customer and changed the mat. Why don’t I do that when it comes down to managing a website? I think a core part of the problem is the lack of real feedback.