Usability Thoughts if you are Interested

I’ve sort of been on fire at the FreshBooks blog today. Here are some posts you might want to have a look at…both usability centic.

Breaking Conventions For Better Usability
“We are doing something slightly different in the new release. We are dropping the text size of the bolded words (they are still useful for contextual reference within the page) and leaving the plain text (i.e. the useful content) larger. It looks like this (see the Green box)…”

“I love my I pod…for the most part I like iTunes software, but why on earth can’t Apple figure out how to do software updates painlessly? They want to make me go to their site, download the update and install the new version. WTF. Can’t they figure out how ask me if I want the upgrade, then do this in the background without bothering me?”

Both posts have photos. Use the links if you want to see them.

Instant Usability – The FreshBooks Way

As posted at the FreshBooks Blog.

When you work hard it’s awfully nice to have that work recognized – especially by an expert in the field.
The design of the FreshBooks application is a story of continuous improvement.  Every release (and the next one is due out very soon) includes improvements that make FreshBooks easier to use.  Why does easy matter?  Because it ensures a positive user experience which makes people (it’s all about people after all) want to tell other people about your service. Positive experience inspires other designers and it leads to more paying upgrades (i.e. it affects your bottom line).
About three weeks ago I received a call from Jack Bellis of Usability Institute.  Jack found FreshBooks through, which is an online resource for web designers, and he tried the service.  As someone who literally wrote the book on usability in 1997 (scroll down to “Computers Stink”), Jack appreciates good design when he sees it.  What he liked about FreshBooks was the emphasis we have placed on “instant usability”. 
While the phrase is new to me, the concept is not.  We try to design every aspect of FreshBooks to ensure you are taught how to use the service AS you use the service.  The effort we invest in instant usability reduces support calls and increases the number of people who choose FreshBooks as their online billing solution.
Jack’s report is a great read for anyone who has a website.  Jack painstaking chronicles 28 things that FreshBooks does right write to deliver a great usabiliity experience.  Honestly, you can learn a lot from the time Jack has taken to dissect the FreshBooks application.  I was amazed at the time he invested in preparing this document – it’s inescapable.  Jack did all of this of his own accord – we had no involvement or influence over it.  The fact that Jack even bothered is a strong indication that we are on the right track at FreshBooks, and I can tell you we are just getting started – so please stick around.

I'm Tired of Beta

I wrote this November 23rd, 2005:

I’m tired of Beta.

Why do I have to visit sites that say Beta?  It’s like a badge, like “Hello My name is”.  Why not change it to “perpetual Beta” – That says to me that your company is going to keep working on it, not just use a catch phrase to spark interest, if that is not what you are planning to do, I’d rather see “Web 2.0 company” and I be happy with, “New”. Let’s bring back the old “New”. Arggh!.@_@!!!

Yesterday I listened to a podcast with Jason Fried. Turns out have quite a bit in common.  For starters:

1. We both studied finance in University
2. We are both self taught designer/developers
3. We both try to hire English majors
4. We’re both tired of Beta.

Jason has, and continues, to articulate his perspective on product development very effectively.  He communicates succinctly – like his designs.  People are listening.  He is almost handedly shifting the software development paradigm.  For example, we (at 2ndSite/Anicon) have never designed an application by focusing on the backend – frankly I would not know how.  Apparently this is how software development is taught.  I had no idea.  If you listen to Jason, he has taken this one small point and run with it.  The conviction he possesses is remarkable.  I tip my hat.

…seriously, I’ll get to pricing…