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Others agree that the Web is sorely lacking in usability. When I announced that I was collecting Web bloopers for a book, one fellow responded, "Man! You are going to spend the rest of your life collecting Web bloopers."
One author provides a blow-by-blow account of the frustrating experience he had trying to buy a wrench over the Web (Casaday 2001). Unfortunately, his experience elicits sympathetic grimaces from anyone who has shopped on the Web.
More systematic surveys have found the same sad truth. A recent survey of 2000 Web shoppers found that approximately half of the people surveyed were "neutral to very disappointed" with the websites they used (Rubin 2002). A Forrester report issued in April 2002 argued that the Web represents a large step backward in usability from desktop software (Souza 2002).
Most tellingly, a survey by Consumer's Union found that two thirds of Americans distrust and avoid e-commerce websites. This is higher than the percentage of Americans who distrust the federal government or ”even in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals ”large corporations. A reporter summarizing the Consumer's Union survey suggested that the problem is mainly that e-commerce web-sites are not designed in a user -centered fashion:
These sites were often designed by computer programmers.... The designers frequently attempted to draw customers with technological bells and whistles while excluding the kind of practical information-return policies, for example-that's generally easy to find in a bricks -and-mortar retail setting. ( Paul 2002 )
The bottom line is that for the general population, the Web is low in quality, confusing, aggravating, and insufficiently useful. Poor usability is a big part of the problem. To achieve its potential, the Web's usability must be improved.
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