The art and the science of user experience

Yahoo Home PageBusinessWeek online has an article about Larry Tesler, Yahoo’s new VP of User Experience, and the design of Yahoo’s front page.

It’s a perplexing read. For example, there’s the statement:

the front page has remained stagnant

Where apparently “stagnant” means unchanged since Sept 2004.

Contrast the “stagnant” quote with this one:

Yahoo researchers endlessly try to divine which are the most-used services.

Indeed, the front page changes in multiple ways every week, as the team tries new ideas. I know this because SDS runs the A/B test system that does all the analytics. In this way, “Yahoo researchers” are always trying new things. And “devine” is an interesting word – “study” is probably more accurate. The Yahoo front page is probably the single most instrumented, most analyzed page on the Web. When 44% of the Internet population sees your page every month, you don’t make changes for the heck of it.

Finally, let’s be honest: it’s not all about user experience. The art is about the design that balances user experience (or “delight” as Larry calls it) with the business needs of the site. The science is running the experiments on those designs, so the varied opinions give way to hard facts based on actual research.

The art and the science of user experience