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Experience Design

Prioritizing your primary users’ tasks

I’ve done this several times now, and I bet I’m not alone. I go a popular web site to look at used cars. My eyes scan for the first input area, which is how the majority of users who have a specific task in mind approach a page, and I immediately see a series of search options near the top left corner. I select a make, a model, a maximum price, specify the search radius, and click Search…wait, what? Search New? That is not what I expected. I was looking for a used car. Now, after making four choices already, I have to start over again in the Used Cars area.
While this is not a show-stopper — I now know what I have to do — it’s extremely annoying and indicates an interface that wasn’t designed with primary and secondary users in mind. A vast majority of those in the market to buy a car are looking at used cars. Though I know this intuitively, a brief search for supporting data demonstrated that 41.6 million used cars were sold in 2000 vs. 5.5 million new cars, so about 88% of all car sales were used. I can only imagine how much higher that is in these economic times.
Because this is a primary user task, the task “search for a used car” should be the top priority on the home page. It would be so simple to swap the location of these two search elements. Some variation in styling would help set the two apart as well, since they have the exact same components. For that matter, why the repetition of search inputs at all? Two buttons could appear under the same input area, one for searching used cars and another for searching new cars.
Probably a less common use case but still one that seems reasonable is a search on both new and used cars. Maybe a person is not sure what they want to buy, and wants to see the difference in prices and features between new and used cars. This particular site currently offers no way to search both, even in the advanced search. Why force users to make a data set choice when they may not want to? Both of these issues could have been avoided by a good definition of the primary users and their key tasks.
How much do you know about your users? Do you have user profiles or personas created for your primary and secondary users? Have you watched them use your site? Have you spent time with them to learn more about their needs, goals and desires? Do you regularly review, interpret and react to your web analytics and search logs? These types of activities are foundational to user experience development, and if you create a product that people use, you should be involved in a variety of these activities on a regular basis.
Contact Perficient today to see how we can help you improve and fine-tune your user experience.


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Molly Malsam

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