Could A Caveman Use Your Web Site?

By Larisa Thomason

My family loves the new GEICO Car Insurance commercials where the hapless caveman defends his species against ignorant assumptions that all cavemen are idiots. Apparently, we aren’t alone. News and commentary about the commercials is all over the Web:

This is great viral marketing, and we’re all envious. But the point of the campaign is something that every Web designer and Web site owner should engrave on their keyboards:

“So easy a caveman can do it!”

Yep. GEICO is making usability their value proposition – at least in this ad campaign. If only every other Web site made the same commitment to ease of use.

Unfortunately, if you start discussing “usability” and “accessibility” with many site owners and designers, their response is less than animated. You can generally count on silence, glassy-eyed stares, and gentle snores of boredom.

Actually, usability is anything but boring. It’s a vital ingredient in customer satisfaction. Review these three scenarios. Chances are, you’ve had similar experiences.

  • You’ve spent hours scouring the Web, and finally found the perfect gift for your hard-to-please significant other. Then you can’t complete the transaction because the shopping cart isn’t compatible with your browser.

    Are you bored?

  • Or what if you’ve forgotten to mail your credit card payment and it’s due right now? You go to the card Web site to pay online, but can’t read the information because the text displays in 8px type.

    Have you accomplished your task?

  • How about this situation? You subscribe to a satellite TV service and get a notice that prices are rising. So you sign into your account to see what service you have now and compare costs. But the Web site doesn’t give you access to that information. All you can do is pay your bill and order movies.
  • Does this site offer what you need?

These situations are a minor irritation for most users, but can be major obstacles to users with physical or cognitive disabilities. People using assistive technologies generally have one way to access information. If the site doesn’t accept that method, the disabled user is just out of luck.

Maybe you think: “Hey, that’s just a few people and I can blow them off.

But think back to those users who were irritated or frustrated. They have options, and one of them is to click straight over to your competitor’s site and breeze through his shopping cart to buy that special gift.

GEICO has the right idea. “Easy to use” isn’t just goal; it’s a requirement for a successful Web site. Good usability by itself can’t make your site a success. However, poor usability – by itself – can make your site a failure.

There are many Web usability resources that cover everything from basic usability and accessibility principles to legal requirements for site owners. Check them out:

Then invite that caveman over and ask him to do a usability test.

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