A Usability Lesson in the Oddest of Places

Airport restrooms. Yuck. I don’t even like to think about them – and I’m betting you don’t either. But they can teach you a valuable lesson about usability.

When you’re in an airport, you’ve got a lot of stuff. Maybe a laptop, a purse, a newspaper, and – with airlines charging for checked baggage – probably a carry-on bag too. And when you go to the restroom, you’ve got to lug it all in there with you.

But here’s the problem. Most airport restroom stalls aren’t any bigger than the stalls in normal public restrooms. So you’re crammed into a tiny little cubicle with your belongings. It’s uncomfortable. It’s irritating. And when the stall doesn’t have a hook for your handbag, it’s downright unsanitary. That’s about as far from user-friendly as you can get.

Some airports have actually been thinking about their customers (travelers) and designing restrooms to meet their needs. Extra-deep stalls. Several hooks on the walls and back of the door. Plenty of room to keep your things off the floor and out of your way. No more feeling frustrated and gross when you leave.

Now, think about this from an online business standpoint. When your prospective customers visit your website, you want them to have a good experience. After all, you want them to buy from you. So when you design your website, make it as user-friendly as possible. And the best way to do that is to get your customers to tell you what’s working for them on your site, and what isn’t.

Internet marketing expert David Cross suggests that before you go “live” with your site, you set up a beta or test version of it and ask for feedback. Enlist friends and family members to take a look and give you their honest opinions. As a result of what you learn from them, you’re sure to give your visitors a far better experience – which will encourage them to come back again and again.