Join Robert Hoekman, Jr. for an in-depth discussion in this video Why user experience is important, part of Flash User Experience Best Practices.
In this first section I just want to talk about what user experience is and why user experience is important particularly on the web. Now, one of the reasons it's become so important to most web developing and has become so important to me, and this statistic comes from several different places, and I've checked this in several different ways over the past several years, one of the principle reasons is that up to 30 percent of web transactions actually end in failure and there's a myriad of reasons that this can be true.
One of them might be -- say you run a bookstore, and you have a website where you'd like to allow your customers to purchase books through your website and, of course, you're going to identify the price of each book right up front. You're going to let them know that this book is $17 so then they add that to their cart and the user starts going through their checkout process and during the checkout process they realize that tax is going to be added to the cost of the book and shipping costs are going to be added to the cost of the book and none of these things are being updated in the price as they're going through the shopping cart, so towards the end of the transaction process they finally get to the last screen and what they get is a little moment of sticker shock when they realize that the book that used to be $17 is now $27, and they might actually abandon the web transaction at that point in hopes to go find another website and find the book at a cheaper price.
Another example might be -- say you're going through the same shopping cart and at one point you have entered in all of your shipping information, and you get to the next screen and then decide that you need to hit the back button because you had entered the zip code for your shipping address incorrectly and you need to go fix that, so you press the back button in your browser and what you get is a rather disturbing error message that says something like session has expired, and it's usually in some cryptic developer speak where there's a big long code and the error message is like, end failure zero zero mice equal query bad, something cryptic like that that you just totally don't understand.
All you know is that your transaction has now failed and that you probably need to start over. So, that's another reason that a web transaction might end in failure. One of the examples that I've come up with on my own recently of this was actually the FEMA website. FEMA has a disaster assistance form on their website that you can complete. So, say if you were the victim of some sort of natural disaster and say your home was wiped out and you needed disaster assistance and you managed to find your way to a local public library or something or over to your friend's house and you managed to find yourself a Macintosh and attempt to go to the FEMA website and complete the disaster assistance form, well one of the first things that you're going to see when you get there and try to complete the disaster assistance form is this image verification system where basically you're supposed to analyze this image and type into this text field -- this is the image and then this is the text field -- you're supposed to type in what that image actually says into this text field and as you can see down here I've already messed this up twice and there's a little note that says you can try no more than three times and this is your third try.
So, this is my last chance. If I don't get this right now, I'm kind of out of luck. I'm going to have to start over. So what happens if I actually get this wrong and odds are I'm going to get it wrong because this image isn't exactly clear and really they just do this to verify that you're a human being and not some sort of Spam bot who's just going to attempt to clog up their mail servers with all sorts of useless advertising information. They do use this for a reason. They want to verify that you're human. So, as a human, I'm having trouble understanding what this image says, and so I enter it incorrectly three times and what I get is this error message that now says, "We're sorry for not being able to proceed with your request because you have failed our test." So the first thing that I think as a result of this is, "A" I didn't know that there was a test.
I mean, I realized I was trying to verify an image, but was that a test, was it some sort of pop quiz? That's a very strange way to say that I'm now unable to complete the process, and the second thing is there's no way at this point for me to retry. There's no link back to the homepage except maybe the actual persistent navigation that shows up down at the bottom of the page there are just no real options. They should present an option right here to either get me back to the homepage, get me to a phone number so that I can call FEMA, something like that, some way to start the process over and continue my user experience, but what happens if I actually complete the image verification, and I actually do manage to get that right? Well, then, what I find out is that Internet Explorer is required, Internet Explorer Version 6, actually, and granted, I did not test this myself on Internet Explorer on the Macintosh, this was done in the Safari browser.
So, it's possible that the experience using Internet Explorer on Mac was a little bit different than this was but using Safari which is, you know, typically the default browser on Macintosh operating systems these days this is the error message that I got, "In order to use this site, you have to be using Internet Explorer 6," and they have provided a link for me to download it for Microsoft but since Internet Explorer Version 6 doesn't exist, I don't have a way to do that. So this error message is not only telling me that I can't use the disaster assistance form because I'm on a Macintosh, but it's also not even trying to guess that I'm on a Macintosh.
It's not trying to say we're sorry this only works on Windows maybe you can find a Windows machine and try again. What it's saying is that I need to try to download a browser that doesn't actually exist for Macintosh and the other option that they give me is to call FEMA at 1800-621-FEMA, and that's all fine and good except the website is supposed to do this job. I managed to find myself a computer. I managed to find myself internet access, and what I want to do is complete the form on the website. So, now I've already wasted a little bit of time on the website because I had to go through the image verification process just to get to this error message but now what they're telling me is that I now need to call FEMA and actually get a live person on the phone and actually handle the process that way.
FEMA has, actually, since fixed this issue. So, please don't go to the FEMA website using Safari on Mac right now and try to make this happen because they have since fixed this issue and kudos to them for doing so. At the time I tested this these were the various error messages that I got. Now, one of the things that I wanted to share with you about user experience -- I mean, hopefully those examples that I just showed you kind of describes why user experience is important. In a particular case where I've lost my home in a natural disaster, and I need assistance from FEMA, restricting me to Windows machines on Internet Explorer 6 is not necessarily the kind of thing you want to put in my way.
In other words you built a web application that doesn't allow me to get what I desperately, desperately need to get and that's kind of a good example of a bad user experience, how a web application can get in the way and how bad design can get in the way. So, what I wanted to share with you, though, is a quote from the Nielson Norman Group. The Nielson Norman group consists primarily of Jacob Nielson and Donald Norman who are actually well-known web usability and user experience sort of masters of the universe, and they've written several books and many many articles and are very well known and very well respected and there's a quote, actually, on their website about user experience that describes that user experience encompasses all aspects of the end user's interaction with the company, its services and its products.
The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer without fuss or bother. Next, comes simplicity and elegance that produces products that are a joy to own, a joy to use. True user experience goes far beyond giving customers what they say they want or providing checklist features. In order to achieve high quality user experience in a company's offerings, there must be a seamless merging of the services of multiple disciplines including engineering, marketing, graphical and industrial design and interface design, and I think that kind of says it all.
Basically what they're saying is that, if you're going to put up a website, make sure that it gives the user what the user actually wants. Don't use it as a way to show off your skills, use your engineering savvy to create something that actually works for the user and allows the user to accomplish his or her goals. Basically, to recap what user experience is and why it's important is basically what this slide right here says: User experience equals customer service. On the web with consumer products whether it's a blender or a toaster or the FEMA website or Amazon.com it doesn't matter.
The user experience that you're providing is the customer service that you should be providing. If I were to walk into a store, there would always be some sort of sign to tell me where things are, there would always be some sort of person there to be able to answer questions, if I had questions. There would always be options for me. If you're not providing those very same options and those similar types of experiences on your website, then your website might be falling short. Now the purpose of this course is to sort of demonstrate how user experience can be improved with Flash and how Flash can actually be sort of beaten into submission to more directly map to more traditional web applications, HTML based applications.
There are several things that Flash applications don't typically do like have working back buttons and things like that and this course is going to cover such topics.
Please note that while this training title is relevant regardless of which version of Flash you are using, if you wish to follow along with the exercise files, you will need Flash 8 to open the files.