Judy Nollet
White Plume Communications

writer, instructional designer, eLearning developer

The Law Still Stands

I used to write a newsletter to keep in touch with clients and colleagues. Looking back, the first article discussed how to keep the purpose in re-purposing. It included what evolved into Nollet's Law of Tolerable Frustration:

The amount of frustration (that is, poor usability) that someone will endure at a web site is directly proportional to the importance of the information to their lives.

In other words, unless you're providing unique, vital content, you must ensure your site is easy to download, easy to navigate, and easy to read. After all, the competition is only a click or two away.

Computers and internet technology have changed a lot since I first wrote about usability, but the law remains in effect. And, sadly, many websites still break it. As examples, I'll tell you about two websites that frustrated me with their somewhat confusing, inefficient designs.

One involved the company that used to host my website. I tolerated a little extra time spent trying to update my billing information, because that modicum of frustration didn't outweigh the effort required to switch hosts. (Degrading service did eventually prompt me to switch hosts.)

The other frustrating website belonged to an insurance company. A recent invoice touted their "paperless" service. The first frustration was having to contact customer service to get an account number, since the invoice did not include one (as the website said it would).

Then, there was no indication that the website was going to give me the paid-in-full discount so prominently offered on the paper version. I was not about to pay online before finding out if they'd eventually give me that credit. Instead, I cancelled the online account, because I'd rather write a check once a year than deal with such poor usability. (I didn't cancel the policy, because I've gotten good service from the agent.)

In fairness, the insurance site did have one good feature: when I cancelled the account, they asked why. So at least I was able to tell them their website was not making my life easier.

The point of this article is simple: Construct your website—indeed, construct all your business communications—with your customers' needs as the top priority. Good usability isn't doing them a favor; it's keeping you in business.

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Copyright Judy Nollet, White Plume Communications. 
		All rights reserved. Email white plume at comcast dot net. link to email Judy

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