I just helped my 8 year old daughter set up her first Gmail account. I’m always amazed at how interesting and valuable watching someone else use a website is – even a child. Here are some things I saw: There is ALWAYS a case for plain language. Even on Gmail’s very short registration page there were terms that could have been easier to understand. For example, ‘Desired login name’ could have been ‘Email address’, ‘Re-enter’ could have been ‘Type again’, ‘Word verification’ could have been ‘Type this’. The Gmail interface relies on you knowing that navigation happens at the top and left-hand side of the screen. Background colours could have chunked this up so that when my daughter was looking for ‘New email’ she didn’t have to scan the entire page, but could have done a first scan of 3 sections. IT took her a while to find out what to click to write her first email. The button was labelled ‘Compose email’. This is another overly complicated term for writing a new email. User error is always a problem. So much of your visitor’s experience happens when they make mistakes. Often, instead of spending a lot of time and effort on the communication, this area is left to the developers. For the second time in as many weeks, I’ve watched my children spend more time on making the Gmail interface look pretty by playing with the built-in themes than they did on using the website itself. Nevertheless, she is up and running and sending emails to everyone. That, and being pursued around the garden by her bigger sister who is trying to get the scrap of paper that has her username and password written on it.
Once again social media has amazed me this week. Here’s what happened: Someone friended me on Facebook that I haven’t seen for 30 odd years. I can’t believe how old she looks and realised that goes for me too. I finally got around to updating my LinkedIn profile, and now have a meeting with someone that I should have called months ago. My wife has gotten a number of orders for her business and a new export contact through her involvement in Facebook. A potential client knows he needs to have social media as part of his business but is unsure why or how. After being very active on Twitter personally, I finally bite the bullet and set up a profile for my business. Grudgingly, it already somehow feels a lot less fun. Another client is happy for his business to engage in social media, but is very concerned about his personal privacy in the process. I look at another client’s web logs and can’t ignore the simple fact that Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) outperforms their social media efforts at a rate of 10 to 1. Although, it shouldn’t be, the SEO has almost no monthly cost but the social media has very real costs to their business. I find 3 new brilliant bands through friends on Twitter and LastFM. I’m meeting friends later for drinks that I met through Twitter. 10. I get irritated by 3 companies who are using social media in very blatant, facile and self-serving ways. I’ll remember who they are and try and use their competitors. I write a post about social media. Once again, I can’t help but be astounded how polarised I feel about this phenomenon. Personally I’m an avid user of social media but find myself having many reservations about its role in business. If a friend or family member asks for advice on social media I gush on all the things they should and can do, if a client asks about social media I gush on all the things they should be careful of. For me the debate on social media’s role in business is still very much open.