30-second Usability Analysis

Here are two websites: getfirefox.com and playogg.org. Open each of them in a new tab and compare their presentation styles.

They are both aimed at the same audience – the non-technical computer user. Could you tell that just by looking at getfirefox.com? What about playogg.org? Both of them have the ultimate goal of trying to persuade this user to install software. Which is more likely to succeed?

This post is not just finger-pointing; if playogg.org want my help, I’ll gladly give it. But I would have thought that just sitting down, looking at the page and thinking “if my mum arrived here, what would she think?” would lead to a load of improvements without a word from me or anyone else.

13 thoughts on “30-second Usability Analysis

  1. hi, i kinda get what you mean, but one is an application the other a file format. you can’t really download ‘ogg’.

    perhaps the real issue is ‘how do we get the non technical user to change file formats’ or if you are suggesting that the goal is to download vlc, the vlc website is closer to get firefox … but not as clear/simple.

    most non technical users look to the application not the file-format. so perhaps the ogg site needs to be ‘how do i play ogg files’ of something similar … and direct the user to software first and explain the fileformat second.

    just thoughts ..

  2. If you wanted to “pick on someone your own size”, you could make a release note to release note comparison with the same result (which is both good and bad, I guess).

    Btw. I was looking for something like this in the Firefox release notes, but had to squint to find the link. I guess you only do that for the major releases. It wasn’t immediately obvious to me (i.e. i discovered it when I hovered the items), that the three bullet points link to the same page.

  3. hi, i kinda get what you mean, but one is an application the other a file format. you can’t really download ‘ogg’.

    The aim of that page is to get you to install the VLC media player.

    most non technical users look to the application not the file-format. so perhaps the ogg site needs to be ‘how do i play ogg files’ of something similar … and direct the user to software first and explain the fileformat second.

    That would be an improvement :-)

  4. Forget about your mum. What do I think? I assume the software (or whatever they’re pushing) is about as clear and uncluttered as the Web site. Free software should do better.

    As for the Firefox page,
    Nicely done, clean page. But “powerful new features” is vague. So is “helpful new features to make your online experience more productive.”

    Oh, wait, after some experimentation I see that those three points are links. Because they are such big, pretty titles, it’s not so obvious.

  5. The links on the Firefox page should be underlined – they look far too much like headings to be useful as links. This is a minor quibble though, the page is generally acceptable.

    The FSF pages are poorly suited to lay users, which is what happens when your entire focus is based on “protecting freedom”, being “patent free” and linking to technical discussions of the GPL. If they’re intending to convert average computer users with that page, it’s never, ever going to happen.

    There’s so much useless technical/freedom-based information on that page that nobody beyond the techy crowd will ever read all of it, if they don’t skip it entirely. The average person may, if persistent, be baffled:
    – What’s GNU/Linux? Do I have that? Do I still need Ogg?
    – Why should I join a mailing list about this – what campaign?
    – I need to change my media player? That sucks.
    – What does Ogg have to do with freedom?
    – What’s the GPL3? Why do I care?
    – What’s the Affero General Public License? Why do I care?

    There’s also the usual FSF mantra that is somewhat off-putting to just about anyone that doesn’t already understand:
    – Zomg, the media is controlled by the companies, and the companies are evil and spy on people.
    – Microsoft had to pay money for patents. Normal people care why?

    Asking people to use VLC is stupid – the GUI is hideous and it doesn’t help people create Ogg media, which is the only reason they’re likely to care about the format in the first place. The chances of anyone actually encountering Ogg in their run of the mill web browsing is incredibly low. The chances of anyone that isn’t already computer literate using VLC on purpose (instead of, say, Media Player) are lower still.

    An Ogg evangelism page could be as simple as black text on a white background saying:
    – Ogg provides better quality than MP3 at smaller file sizes.
    – Ogg is supported by many portable music players (link to wiki list).
    – Ogg will work with your chosen media player once installed.
    – Ogg is free (get it here).

  6. Check out the FLAC website: http://flac.sourceforge.net/

    It’s horrendously over-wordy (thanks to having news items on the front page) and unnecessarily technical (“non-proprietary”, “API”, “open-source reference implementation”), so I’d say not highly suited to lay users.

    However, the first section does exactly what the FSF did not do with Ogg – it tells you what FLAC is and why you should care – with useful links. It’s not as good as it could be, but it beats the Ogg page by a long shot.

  7. vorbis.com has the exact opposite problem – it has no useful information whatsoever and its first text segment (i.e. not a heading or floating box) refers to source code, shortly followed by the patent stuff that lay users won’t care about and technical terminology.

  8. Well, I’m not sure the “ultimate” goal is to get them to install VLC. Installing VLC is a step towards the ultimate goal of getting everyone to use free software exclusively and understand the software and their rights.

    Whether that’s a realistic goal or not is debatable, but your judgement on their page and offer of help seems rather patronising.

    You could equally look at the Firefox page and say “the ultimate goal is to get people involved in a campaign for free software”, and in that case I think Mozilla may need their help to improve the Firefox pages (not to mention the licensing of the Firefox code) to achieve that goal.

    I’m not sure the actual audience is the same either. Unless you are a geek who is devoted to free software and open formats, you are unlikely to put up with VLC, which is rather clunky.

  9. Gerv wrote:

    The aim of that page is to get you to install the VLC media player.

    I would disagree with that statement. Their product and project is Ogg, not VLC. VLC is just one way to make use of Ogg.

    Marc

  10. Marc: Ogg is not a product of the FSF, but of xiph.org. Their project is not “Ogg”, it’s getting more computers capable of playing Ogg – hence the name, playogg.org. The page begins “A user friendly guide to installing Ogg support…” and then says:

    To access streaming Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Theora files you need a media player that understands these formats. Many different free software players work with Ogg. We like one called VLC Media Player. To download and install it, please follow the instructions below.

    Therefore, I think it’s fair to say that the aim of the page is to get you to install VLC.

    (Of course, that’s the wrong aim, but that’s a different question. The aim of a page called playogg.org, for Windows users, should be to get them to install the Illiminable Ogg DirectPlay codecs, so Ogg support Just Works in Windows Media Player or whatever player they use.)

  11. Ben: Good summary of the issues.

    Michael: Your first sentence is right – and I think that’s their problem. They can either try and turn the person into a total free software supporter on first contact, or they can start with freeing their music use and work from there.

    You could equally look at the Firefox page and say “the ultimate goal is to get people involved in a campaign for free software”

    No, you couldn’t. I don’t think there’s anyone who argues that this is the goal of the Firefox page. I personally would like there to be more mention of freedom in the Firefox publicity, but as it stands, there isn’t, and I understand that’s deliberate.