I’m always asking for feedback on the site’s design. Responses generally fall into two groups:
1. Couldn’t be simpler
2. Couldn’t be more confusing
Being the sort of person I am, I focus on the latter group. Which is usually a group of two or three, out of over 8,000 members, but I assume that for every person who speaks up there are another 99 with the same experience, just not speaking up.
These two or three people tell me that they cannot find what they are looking for when they come to the site, that they often find themselves going in circles, that they cannot figure out how to get their member number, and so forth.
This confusion confuses me, since everything is spelled out.
A common complaint has been that the survey results are impossible to find. In the most recent case, I responded that there are two ways to get to the results:
1. Sign in, then click on the “Reliability” tab
2. Click on the link to the results in the Reliability box on the home page
The response: he’d never been given a password, so he signed in as “Guest,” and the tab didn’t take him to the results. He didn’t try Alternative #2, perhaps because he didn’t read beyond Alternative #1 in the email. And he didn’t see the instructions for how to obtain his member number because…well I don’t really know why. These instructions are immediately above the sign in form. This person seemed very intelligent in his emails; he just wasn’t going to do any reading of complete sentences, almost as a matter of principle.
What to do? Is it possible to design the site such that even people who don’t read the various instructions and explanations can navigate and use it easily? Can I communicate things that must be communicated–like the research process–in a handful of words?
If I could achieve this, then the site would be better for all users, even those willing to read. But at some point the usefulness of the site and the quality of the research results would begin to suffer. So: seek to redesign the site for non-readers, or narrow the focus to those looking for depth of information? There are very likely more people in the former group, but the latter group will get more out of the site and will provide higher quality survey responses.
I don’t have an answer at this point.