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OlivierK's Profile

OlivierK's Avatar Joined about 4 years ago
Gender: Male

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Go to: I think I'll get kicked around for saying this...

OlivierK's Avatar Jump to comment 24 by OlivierK

Well, let's see - what was the brief? To create a discussion area.

So on release there was:

  1. A comment box positioned to make "drive-by" comments easier and engaged discussion harder
  2. No comment identification numbers
  3. A quote function that mangled formatting of both quoted and new text, and added code fragments to comments
  4. No spellcheck integration to avoid errors
  5. No edit or delete capacity to fix errors
  6. No ability to list discussions you've contributed to
  7. No ability to if your discussions have been commented on by others
  8. No ability to show comment times in your local time
  9. Non-compliance with accessibility standards for vision impaired users

Some of these basic discussion-enabling features (2-5) have been fixed - not because the implementers have suddenly taken an interest in usability, but because members demanded them. The others remain unattended to.

The comment box placement is indicative of the total lack of user focus of this development. It is obvious to every user - even those with precisely no experience in web design - that it's in the wrong place. All you need to do to be aware of this error is to try to use the system to make a comment as part of a discussion. To get to where we are now, nearly a fortnight after release, with this trivial error remaining uncorrected requires:

  1. An original design that failed to take into account what people do when making comments
  2. A failure of anyone in the implementation to apply a critical perspective to the original design.
  3. A failure of anyone on the team to test the system using real data and usage patterns.
  4. A failure by the team to recruit and observe real users using real data and usage patterns.
  5. A failure to prioritise gross usability errors over trivial cosmetic or functional errors, many of which have been fixed while this still waits.

In short, it requires a lack of focus on usability, and even awareness of usability issues. Usability techniques are now so well known and tried and tested that most undergraduates would be exposed to these methods from the very beginning of their most basic courses. Most usability techniques can be applied at low or zero cost. And yet, no sign of that happening here.

Some may well be happy that some of the cosmetic glitches (that should have been fixed pre-release) have been fixed on the fly post-release.

Some may choose to see users pointing out obvious flaws which are then fixed as responsiveness to user needs, rather than tragically poor initial design.

But to others like myself with a background in online design and usability, this project's main value lies in its worth as a case study in how not to upgrade a website: the design was poor and remains intrinsically poorly-suited to the brief; the pre-release testing was cursory and not focussed on testing real usage patterns; the implementation was buggy; performance was so poor the servers were overloaded by small numbers of users; reported bugs have been prioritised by their interest to programmers, not their impact on users; and it goes on...

As an employer of the sort of people who built and tested this website upgrade I can state with absolute confidence that I would not hire anyone involved in this project, and that that would be a very easy decision indeed.

I can only conclude that anyone who is impressed has never been involved in a project where these issues have been tackled competently - the difference is simply astounding.

Updated: Mon, 17 May 2010 01:49:34 UTC | #470699

Go to: Start New Discussion - what are appropriate topics?

OlivierK's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by OlivierK

Don't blame mercilessrationality, truthinScience.

The topic is labeled Start New Discussion, and I believe that's what they were trying to do. I'd put it down to equal parts cluelessness about one's surroundings (just a feeling I get from their content) and a general lack of usability of this new website (just a feeling I get from this new website ;).

What's needed is a structure that makes explicit how to start topics and reply to the discussions that evolve from them. Dare I say it there's a lot of off-the-shelf forum software that does this very well, some of which used to be implemented at this site. But for the sake of pre-moderation (available usng the old system) it's been chucked out. Oh well.

Sun, 09 May 2010 00:41:10 UTC | #467920

Go to: Please post functional issues with the site here so that they can be addressed

OlivierK's Avatar Jump to comment 22 by OlivierK

Yeah, I shouldn't be testing this, because I have a self-imposed rule about not working for clients who are annoying, but hey, I'm feeling generous (and sort of fascinated by how bad this is - it's like watching car crash shows)

EDIT: So it turns out I can't edit your comment, Tyler. Normally I wouldn't bother testing that, but it's plausible here. Pat on the back for you, Chalkers, this is now officially NOT the worst website ever. :)

Updated: Fri, 07 May 2010 03:29:35 UTC | #467132

Go to: Darwin Got It Going On

OlivierK's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by OlivierK

I saw Brinkman in Adelaide earlier this year, bought the CD, and unreservedly recommend both to any and everyone. It's been in the car CD player almost constantly for almost two months now.

Thu, 06 May 2010 07:43:13 UTC | #467169

Go to: Please post functional issues with the site here so that they can be addressed

OlivierK's Avatar Jump to comment 20 by OlivierK

That's interseting, Tyler. (It's actually not, it's sort of sad, but I need a comment less than five minutes old to test something ;-)

EDIT: didn't work - someone post something and I'll try again.

Updated: Thu, 06 May 2010 04:07:14 UTC | #467127

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