Introduction

Welcome to Elbasu. My name is Cari and I’m a usability geek. There should be a 12-step program for people like me. I go through my life thinking about things that most people would ignore or, at most, get slightly peeved at and promptly forget. Things like doors that don’t open the way you’d expect them to, websites that have cumbersome interfaces, utensils that look pretty but don’t work…you name it.

By education I am a teacher first, a marketer second, and an Internet Strategist (whatever THAT means) third. I am primarily focused, vocationally, on strategic planning and user experience for a financial services web site. It’s not rocket science, but there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. You have to be able to wear hats and shoes that don’t belong to you, come in colors you despise, and would never fit you even if your feet swelled to twice their size as a result of a salty meal. You do this so you can try to see your site through the eyes of your readers. Many people try to do this by offering up an opinion (the dreaded “focus group of one”) or referring to syndicated research. Doesn’t work. You need to constantly survey your audience, perform real user testing, talk directly to your users, talk to the customer service agents who talk to your users every day. Knowing your user is the very first step to creating a flawlessly usable thing – whether that’s a web site, a fork, or a sliding glass door.

I will admit that the web site that I oversee at my job is not flawless. Reality requires compromise. Business strategy, technical constraints (including resource availability), objectives (read: ROI), and priorities all come into play. The goal should never be less than perfect, but the reality will most definitely fall short. That’s OK – it gives you a reason to get up in the morning and keep doing what you’re doing.

Last order of business: opinions. Everyone’s heard the expression, “Opinions are like @ssholes – everyone has one.” Yes, this is true, and I am no exception. I don’t claim to be right all the time. I do claim the right to say that my opinions are right FOR ME and if that’s the case, they may be right for other users as well. If there is something here that you disagree with, I welcome your feedback. My aim is to make the world a more usable place, not to tick people off. If you have an example to share, please let me know. I promise to always give credit where credit is due.

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