Why the launch is just the start, who cares about browsers, and usability myths
Paul Boag argues that creating a website specification up-front is not the correct way of going about a web project:
…they are often presented to the development team (either an external agency or in-house web team) as a rigid set of requirements to be delivered. There is rarely a discussion about whether the specification could be improved. This is a waste of the extensive knowledge and talent that the development team brings to the table.
Even more significantly these specifications are only a best guess at what we believe users want. At the outset of a project we simply do not know enough about our target audience to be sure what they need.
It is only after watching users interact with our site that we really understand what they want. In light of this, upfront specifications make little sense.
This is one of the reasons why I have argued against a heavy handed big bang / project approach.
Too often I have seen website launches that have lots of up-front involvement from stakeholders, only for them to lose interest as soon as the website launches… and then wonder why it needs to be redesigned within a few years.
The day the a website launches is when the work really begins, as only then do we know how users in the real world will use the website.
A few months ago I worked on a browser policy.
The University of Kent Web Development Team make a persuasive case that a browser policy probably does little good. Instead, we should focus on content and progressive enhancement. This is sort of the conclusion we came to anyway, except that I still produced a compatibility table, which is probably already out of date.
Let’s turn things round and focus on people. We need to accept that people don’t and shouldn’t care about browsers.
Progressive enhancement is a useful concept. It describes a principle that at the most basic level users should be able to access your content no matter what browser they’re using.
People who don’t have the latest browsers may not get the full website experience in terms of visual appeal. But they will get all the functionality and content that they’ve come to the website for.
An interesting article looking at some myths that surround usability testing.
The CUE studies consistently show that the number of usability problems in most real-world websites is huge. Most CUE studies found more than 200 different usability problems for a single state-of-the-art website. About half of them were rated serious or critical.