Grigoria Pontiki

Users have time. They just don’t want to spend it with you.

The title above could be the answer to the question: “Why should I care about website usability?”.

The average page visit lasts a little less than a minute and the probability of leaving in the first 10 seconds is very high. In fact, people usually leave quick or stay long. Pages with a clear value proposition can hold people’s attention for much longer than 10 seconds and when users decide that a page is valuable, they may stay for a bit.

So…are people lazy?

Research does show us that people will do the least amount of work possible to get a task done. They have learned that they will survive longer and better if they conserve their energy. So, it’s not a matter of time, it’s a matter of energy. People have time. Users have time. But they will spend it doing actions for their survival (food, sleep, water, sex, shelter) or repetitive actions, but it’s unlikely that they will spend it decoding a website’s design.

Steve Krug is famous, amongst other, for his quote: “It doesn’t matter how many times I have to click, as long as each click is a mindless, unambiguous choice.”

As a matter of fact, in a recent usability test at Skroutz, while we were testing our website’s layout for fashion products, I was observing a woman browsing black boots for about 20-25 minutes. I had to stop her at page 18, when we weren’t getting any valuable information from the test (OK, it’s not very surprising considering that women and shoes were involved). In the same test, men tried to eliminate the results they were getting, so that they had to browse fewer products.

Moreover, according to a recent research, Facebook users spend about 40 minutes a day checking their Facebook feed. The average amount people watching TV is five hours daily. Users have time, but they will spend it where they will have to consume less energy. It sounds a bit sad, but that’s how we are.

On the other hand, Susan Weinschenk, in her book “100 things every designer needs to to know about people” mentions:

The more difficult something is to achieve, the more people like it. If you want people to join your online community, you might find that people use it more and value it more if there are steps that have to be taken to join. They can be seen as barriers to entry, but they may also mean that the people who do join care more about the group.

Maybe this is because of the assumption that if it’s difficult to join, then it must be good. The writer points out that she is not suggesting to make your website hard to use and I’m thinking that maybe gamification techniques can be applied to achieve this.

My conclusion: Find what your users want to do in your website, what they want from you and design a user experience for it. Try not to think what you want them to do. There is a high possibility that users won’t find what they are looking for at your website but as Steve Krug says in “Don’t make me think”, users tend to choose the most satisfying option.

In reality, though, most of the time we don’t choose the best option — we choose the first reasonable option, a strategy known as satisfying.