Simple does not Equal Usable


I posted a short while back about Jakob Neilsen’s site and the question of how usable it is. My argument was simple; the nature of the Internet has changed since Jakob put the site up and the Internet/browser today is closer to an application than a brochure. I received some nice comments and one question via email that contained the following.

. . . sites should try to be like Google. Dead simple.

This is an interesting to me because I don’t find Google (search results specifically) that usable. Search is simple to use but the initial search mechanism is only half of the picture. The results are where the blubber meets the walrus. When you search on something like trek bicycles Google returns primarily text based search results. It should be returning Trek’s site, images of Trek bikes, Videos of Trek bikes, locations of the nearest stores (based on what IP your coming from), news on Trek Bikes; all laid out on the page in an easy to scan format. (I touched on this in Death of the Homepage.) Currently I have to click on a tab to see the images, videos, etc. The goal of search is to be one step ahead of the user and an easy way to do this is via usability. Google is getting better at this. When you search on dogs the results come back with images, some sites and some videos. But it’s still not the results of old, but they’re getting there.

And now for a handy metaphor. A tape measure is simple. A tape measure with a locking mechanism to hold the tape in place, is usable. (When I told this to someone, they quickly informed me that a laser measure is even more usable.) This is an excellent point. Usability is something you consistently address; not something that is done.