Net Rage: A Study of Blogs and Usability
Catalyst’s proprietary test of the usability of blogs sheds light on a variety of user-experience related design challenges associated with blogs’ potential to become a mainstream medium for Internet users. Read this white paper to learn more insights gained from this usability study.
It’s no secret that blogs are a hot topic. When both Walter Mossberg (Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2005) and the Pew Internet and American Life Project (January 2005) weigh in on the subject, something is going on – especially in the wake of the attention devoted to blogging in the 2004 presidential elections. Add to all this IBM’s mid-May decision to promote employee blogging; BusinessWeek’s April 27th, 2005 cover story on the topic; and Microsoft’s June 24, 2005 announcement that RSS will be bundled into Longhorn - and you have a full-scale phenomenon. Finally: Technorati and PubSub, search engines for the “blogosphere,” currently index 7 million and 12 million blogs, respectively.
But how “real” is the phenomenon in terms of the experience of the everyday Internet user? Are blogs truly ready for uptake by millions who regularly use the Internet – but who so far have neither written nor knowingly read blogs? Answering this question from a cultural or content perspective falls to others. But as researchers and designers focusing on user experience, Catalyst Group Design set out to test just how well, from a design perspective, blogs would perform for a typical end-user.
Our conclusion: Even assuming mainstream interest, current blog design standards – at least in terms of navigation, nomenclature and taxonomy – are a barrier to consumer acceptance. In fact, the design of most blogs can incite “net rage” (in the words of one test participant).
Just this week, “bloggerati” like Steve Rubel (Micropersuasion.com) and commentators like the New York Times’ David Pogue have weighed in on these consumer acceptance issues – mostly with regard to RSS, or the mechanism by which blogs can be “syndicated” by publishers. The following report gives some additional shape and substance to the realization that blogs need to meet a different standard of behavioral requirements and expectations if they are to succeed with the mainstream internet audience.
Highlights of the study include:
- No participant understood the mechanisms associated with RSS/subscribing to a blog – not even the minority familiar with the term “RSS.”
- Few participants even recognized that they were on an actual blog – and once they did, had a very different reaction to the information presented.
- A minority of participants understood how to navigate within the blog itself – with most being confused by areas for recent posts, categories, trackbacks and even the comments and archives functions.
This is an excerpt; read the full July 2005 report in pdf format.