My Trip to the UX Lab at 4orce (Summer Sausage Edition)

I took a fantastic tour of the UX (user experience) lab at 4orce Digital courtesy of Danielle Cooley, User Experience Director. Danielle won the Scan MD and Win contest and I was there to deliver her prize: an autographed book and coffee to pick my brain about marketing.

Actually I was the one that did the brain picking. I have been intrigued by the discipline of user experience since attending a week long training with Jakob Nielsen a couple of years ago. I have been trying to incorporate good user experience design and educate myself on the topic ever since. I took advantage of the opportunity and asked Danielle a lot of questions, which she patiently answered.

This is the first time I have seen a real usability lab in person. I've done some impromptu testing inside a retail store and in conference rooms, but this was the real deal. A dedicated computer, microphones, and cameras with high powered zooms surrounded the room. All of these gadgets work together to help Danielle determine if the websites they are launching are providing a good experience for the end user.

I was impressed the minute I walked in door. There is a huge wall with the 4orce logo and a cool modern pattern in black, red and white in the lobby (photo above). Even the restrooms have a cool design on the doors. But the best part of the trip was getting some delicious venison summer sausage made by Mr. Cooley. Yum! 

Here are a few of the pictures I snapped. You can see the rest in the gallery.

See more pictures.

How To: Stay Ahead of The Search Engines

Recently Google announced they were changing their algorithm for displaying search results. They are going to start penalizing sites that have content they view as "spammy".

Google's Principal Engineer and anti-spam czar Matt Cutts writes on the Google blog, "...we recently launched a redesigned document-level classifier that makes it harder for spammy on-page content to rank highly."

This is a big deal to search engine experts who are constantly trying to figure out how Google ranks site content and adjust accordingly. There are other search engines, but Google is dominant and usually sets the standard for the industry.

There are several search engine optimization (SEO) sites out there giving advice or offering their services. In general it's a good idea to follow their lead and to build your site using best practices.

The problem is creating your site for the search engines alone. The purpose of your site is to be read by your customers, not the search engines. Search engines can play a vital role in people finding your site, but if the user does not have a good experience then it is a wasted effort. The discipline of designing for users is called User Experience Design or UX.

In fact what Google and the other engines are trying to do with their algorithms is figure out if they are sending their users to sites that provide a good experience.

Good site design is often a balancing act between SEO and UX. When in doubt you should err on the side of good UX. Providing a great experience for your customers will never be obsolete, while following a strict SEO formula could change tomorrow.

HOW TO: Get Traffic to Your Website Part 10 - User Experience

(This is an excerpt from the book Internet Marketing for Newbies - read the whole book for FREE)

Have you ever been frustrated when visiting a website because you can not get the information you need? Getting people to your site is half the battle, getting them what they came for is the next step. 
How easy is your site to use once they get there? Is your content laid out clearly and properly labeled? Does your navigation make sense? User experience design is now a major industry in the web world. Consider getting help, but if you do it yourself or you are not sure you can’t go wrong by keeping it simple. It works for Google.


Next HOW TO: Get Traffic to Your Website Part 11 - The Secret to SEO