The new usability experts

Are not who we expect them to be. It’s not Jakob Nielsen or even Steve Krug. In fact it is Joe Citizen.

Without even realising it, the average web surfer or smart phone addict has become an expert in usability. This doesn’t mean we could ask them what a sight should look like, how it should work or to advice us of any design imperatives. it’s a little different than that. But have no doubt, they are the experts. And their expertise is different. it is more like this – they know what sucks. They will not tolerate a site that sucks for more than a few seconds.


We have entered an age of mass usability expertise – and this has been driven by social media. As entrepreneurs and aspiring startup geeks we have to remember the training our users are getting. They are being trained on what is ‘best practice’ by the worlds best – brands like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Google, Foursquare. Brands with the greatest UI’s ever seen are training the everyday person on what good looks like. Even if it is occurring at a subconscious level. It is happening.

The impact of this is significant. For me it puts flow first, and features second. The flow of the site and intuitive nature must be put above all other technology and feature desires we have. If we fail with our usability, there wont be a second chance to win back the experts who’ve already decided we don’t cut it.

5 thoughts on “The new usability experts

  1. Is it a case of mass usability expertise, or usability standards becoming more entrenched? As web/mobile design matures as a industry, “Best practice” is become more defined. Doing something different is becoming a bigger risk. Soon “funky yet functional” web design will go the way of three wheeled cars. Sure you can, but should you?

  2. You make a really good point Chris – I guess it depends on our objectives….

    Is the design about Art or Commerce? Surely that should be the defining question that leads design. Either way, their is always a role for the differentiated and new artistic interpretations of design.


  3. I agree Steve; when evaluating flow, I always think “how would mum use this site?”

    This weekend I went Christmas shopping. I ended up at that beautiful spice store on Lygon St. I stayed in there for 40min, inhaled all the different concoctions, talked to the staff about what I could cook with them, and eventually bought $100 worth of product.

    Try doing that online, regardless of UX flow. The best (read: BEST) user experience will always be in-store. It will just take time for local shopfront rent prices to adjust to the global marketplace. We’ll see a spike in online sales, and then the rise of the amazing-in-store-experience that will make the internet look slow and uninspiring. Lets just see how long it takes our retailers… ;D

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