Usability is about Connection

I think it’s time for us to share a moment. Let’s talk, shall we?

Ahmed Bilal asks over at Performancing Is Your Blogging Stressing You Out? My answer is an overwhelming, "oh God, yes!"

Some of my stress is simply a result of being relatively high strung. I’m what you would call Seriously Jumpy. If the central air clicks on in a quiet room, someone call the paramedics because I’ve had a heart attack. However, most of my life and blog-related stress is rooted in my sick need for you all to like and accept me.

Kim had a good post earlier this week entitled Who We Really Are, How We Connect and Why It Helps to Know and linked off to a color quiz that gives you insights into your personality by analyzing the way you respond to colors. Yes, it sounds like the kind of thing most likely found on MySpace, but the truth is, the answers were dead on. Susan and I both took it and compared results. The quiz honed in on things we probably already knew but were still waiting for someone to tell us. For example, Susan is a demanding, egocentric bitch (it really said that), while I long to be validated, loved and accepted (aren’t I adorable? Damn my parents for not hugging me more as a kid).

[If you’re starting to feel uncomfortable and asking yourself how this is relevant to search engine optimization, hold on, I’m getting to the point.]

Who you are as a person and the way that you connect to others affects your business, your site and your blog and you need to be aware of it. You need to know who you are and who your customers are in order to create a relationship with them. You want to be their friend, not just someone trying to spam them.

The forces of the blogosphere must be aligning because DazzlinDonna aka Donna Fontenot had a similar post asking: Are you my social network friend or just a social spammer. In her post, Donna mentions the hordes of friend requests she’s getting from Facebook and says she immediately shoots down anyone she views as trying to spam her. She talks about how we’re predisposed in the online world to cut out people we don’t know or who are ‘not like us’. (Is that really any different in the offline world?)

Guess what? Your customers are doing the same thing.

There are hundreds of companies vying for their attention, many of which are in your own industry. They’re going to accept the friend request from the company that they feel wants to be their friend, someone who they have something in common with. You’re giving off a myriad of social cues on your Web site that directly relate to who you are, or at least to who your Web designers are. You want to be aware of them in order to elicit some degree of control. Or at least be aware what you’re subconsciously telling people.

You also want to be aware of your audience. We talk a lot about creating personas and trying to visualize your audience, but I think this takes it a step deeper. Whether SEOs want to admit it, usability is becoming an increasingly important part of search engine optimization. And part of usability means creating sites that searchers will want to interact with (yeah, duh). Are you aware how your decision on things like colors and voice are affecting your site? Do you know how your users would score on the color quiz? Their wants, fears and characteristics?

As search engine optimization becomes more about marketing, these things are going to have a much bigger impact. It’s going to be less about keywords and more about themes and relationships. It’s going to be about transparency and finding the company whose personality matches yours.

Given that, it’s time for everyone to take a step back and see what’s around them – who they are, who their audience is, and what they have in common. Why should a potential customer accept your friend request? Know that you’re predisposed to do or feel X, how can you channel that?

Both Kim and Donna’s blog posts make an important point. It’s not just about optimization; it’s about forming a connection with users through words, designs and action. As Kim notes, it’s about "the human factors".

Hopefully learning (or at least confirming) the kind of person I am will help me to become a better, less stressed blogger, though I doubt it. I’ll probably always be paralyzed by a blank Word doc because it represents so many ways for me to put my foot in my mouth and embarrass everyone.

Maybe I should just go get a prescription for my apparent social dependence so that I can write a blog entry without picturing you all pointing, laughing and throwing things at me. Or maybe I can get Susan to quit making me wearing that World’s Worst Person & Blogger dunce cap she makes me wear. Damn Susan. [It’s a growing experience. –Susan]

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (1)
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One Reply to “Usability is about Connection”

What a nice surprise to see that you and Susan got into that post I wrote :) It set off a storm of ideas for me, esp. with the other Jung test I linked to. I had tried to get some interest at Cre8asiteforums in the idea that if enough of us took the Jung test, and learned what “personality” we are, maybe we’d find a common personality for SEO’s or web designers, etc. (Some folks played along, others didn’t.)

Thing is, just consider you both, Lisa and Susan, as people a startup company selling online wants to connect with. Lisa has her standout traits, and Susan has her’s. Both are completely unique and real, but chances are quite good that your specialness is not considered in their form design, images, content, and even navigation setup.

Most sites are built for a generic one size fits all human and search engine algorithms.


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