Saturday, February 9, 2013

Satisficing and Web Users

In chapter two of his book, author Steve Krug uses a word that might appear as though he is trying to use another word and just can't spell. That word is "satisfice," and yes, he spelled it correctly. So what does Krug mean by the this strange word, you may or may not be asking yourself? He refers to the phenomenon that occurs when a user visits a particular webpage and is faced with several options of where to click first or how to go about navigating the material presented, satisficing is choosing the first reasonable option that pops into the users head. Most of the time, this option is NOTHING like the one that the web designer had in mind for the user, whom that designer has wrongly assumed will navigate around and read the entire page before making a decision. But as Krug points out, users don't have time for that. Particularly with a medium such as the internet, users are looking for quick information, they're not logging on to read entire websites unless it is the news, or in the case of most young people today, their Facebook newsfeed. Therefore, while the "satisficing" decision that a user makes is not necessarily the right one for the information desired, it is the way users use the internet, and web designers need to be aware of this fact when designing web pages.
As soon as I read about "satisficing," I immediately thought to myself, "oh my gosh I do that all the time!" I do it with print media when I get a magazine and see an article on the cover I want to check out, flip to the section that my mind believes the article should be in, find out it doesn't exist there and have to give in and look at the table of contents. But I also find myself doing it on the web. Last week, I wanted to get some new shoelaces for my L.L. Bean boots. So naturally I visited the company website and immediately clicked on "footwear" tab at the top of the page. Rather than wait for the fly out menu that gave me specific options, I went with the first reasonable choice: click the button. This took me to a pictorial menu with a lot going on, so I looked for the accessories button. This took me to socks. I got pretty fed up with trying to "muddle" through the website for shoelaces, so I finally just searched in the company search bar for the item I needed. This would have been the logical choice from the start, but of course I went with what my mind told me would be the most reasonable option. I think that the most reasonable thing the web designer could have done differently to make my visit less of a hassle is:
a) Make the fly out menu repeat after clicking the button, rather than giving me a bunch of pictures with various types of footwear
b) Make shoelaces part of the accessories button under footwear rather than under general accessories. 

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