Buttons you just don’t want to press

When we did a big re-pitch recently, we knew we’d have to know as much about why our site wasn’t working as all the people pitching against us. (There’s lots of complicated reasons why we hadn’t just fixed these problems in advance! Honest).

Well the great thing about usability research is you always find out something which you would NEVER have worked out, but once you know it, it seems blindingly obvious. What did we find? In an effort to make users more able to click on things and engage with them, we’d made the links big, flasher, more graphical and more funky. Each time round the client was screaming “bigger”, “shinier”.

And what did the users see? They saw nothing at all. I’ve got three videos on my hard drive of users trying to complete the simplest task “buy tickets” and they can’t do it. They’re looking at a screen on which about 1/8 of the real estate is a “buy now” button, and they can’t see it. It’s massive; it’s flashy and brash. It should be really obvious, but it looks like an ad, and users screen it out. It might as well be invisible.

Today, even more bizarrely, we were trying out a big “contact us” button. Same background with Verdana and the client’s corporate font. the corporate font looks better of course but it doesn’t work. Verdana works. Tell that to your creative director who wants “brand consistency”!

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