Discover Tasmania – content and interaction design case study

today I’m going to pick on the new-ish Discover Tasmania website

Discover Tasmania Home

I came across this site in my quest to look at every single tourism site in the world (don’t ask… it wasn’t my idea). Its pretty new. I know this because when I started my quest the Tassie tourism site looked very different to how it does now.

The first thing I thought when I saw this site was – wow! Finally someone has made a sexy tourism website. Hoorah.

Then I started using it.

Oh, the disappointment when I discovered that they’d actually only designed, properly designed, a couple of the pages.
Actually… the problems started before then. First up, if you’re looking at the site using Firefox, chances are that you won’t even see the pretty Flash ‘intro site’ (its more than a splash page)*. I can only see if it I’m using Explorer (which I rarely do these days… mostly when sites won’t work properly in Firefox). Just say you do get to see the Flash-y bit, then you’ll quickly find some navigation elements that fly up from the bottom of the page. Tricky little buggers, aren’t they. Very hard to control. I wonder if anyone ever did any user testing on them? Couldn’t think so.

Find your way to the main site, and you’ll see a few surface pages that are quite pretty. Get down to the actual content and it all goes to hell. As usual, its the 3rd tier pages that Just don’t seem to have been designed. Why go to all the trouble of Flash homepages and then let it all go when it comes time to deliver on the promise?

3rd tier page

See this page? Who designed that content? Oh, I know. The developer probably. Or, wait, someone chucking content into a CMS template. No one would deliberately design that content like that, would they?

How does this happen? In my experience, its one of three things (in reverse likelihood order):

a) whoever designed the site got bored with the detail stuff having started with designing the homepage and juzzy Flash stuff. (which reminds me of what I was thinking about the other day re: when to design the homepage)

b) whoever designed the site didn’t/couldn’t get hold of the content within a reasonable amount of time from when the site had to launch so as to allow them to design the content. (in which case we can blame project managers and/or clients, but also non-feisty designers)

c) whoever designed the site was given a ridiculously short amount of time to design the site and the only pages the client really cared about were the homepage and, if you’re lucky, the next level pages.

I know as well as anyone, that in most projects the circumstances are far from ideal, but the problems on this site are ones that I think are really symptomatic of a lack of user testing, a lack of interest in user experience, and a lack of interest in content. In this case, some really basic rules are broken – including my pet hate – sending me off to another site without giving me any indication that you’re going to do so. Argh, I hate that.

Its all a bit disappointing, because we should all really know better.

And yet, its still probably the second best tourism site I’ve come across.

Have you seen any better?

* Updated – actually, I’ve tested the site using Firefox on another PC and it seems to work fine… strange. I have Flash installed for Firefox on my laptop but, nada. No go with the Flash. But it seems that its not just a Firefox thing, so I take that back.

links for 9 February 2006

Another eclectic bunch of links today:
  • Squidoo : Introduction to Web 2.0 because too many Introductions to Web 2.0 is never enough. Actually, this is as much note to self to go back and check out Squidoo at a later date and see how its coming along. I quite like the idea but I wonder whether it will gather enough steam to be useful. This introduction is done by Joshua Porter. (tags: web2.0 squidoo)
  • blik INVADER: blik check out this space invader wall decal… see, if I was decorating a room for a kid, I would definitely use these. They have other more ‘tasteful’ decals for those less inclined to space invaders. I quite like the flying bird one. (tags: decorating design space-invaders home)
  • Multi-Touch Interaction Research via James via Lela this is a pretty exciting research program and they have a funky video to make it much more digestible than your average research program! While touch sensing is commonplace for single points of contact, multi-touch sensing enables a user to interact with a system with more than one finger at a time, as in chording and bi-manual operations. It reminds me Tom Cruise and Minority Report stuck in 2 dimensions. (yeah right, like I’m the only one who’s thinking that! I’m just the only one dumb enough to admit it!) Lots of HCI challenges ahead! (tags: HCI touch interactiondesign)

links for 8 February 2006

Just a couple of quick ones today:

  • 30 Boxes | it’s your life a shareable online calendar. i haven’t had a chance to have a play with it yet, but I’m looking for a calendar that I can use in place of Outlook (unless Google are about to launch one that is integrated with gmail), so I’m going to take a look at this in the next few days as an option. (tags: calendar SocialNetworks sharing)
  • coComment – clear conversation in the blogosphere coComment says: Tired of commenting and LOSING TRACK of your discussions? Want to SHARE YOUR COMMENTS on other’s blogs with your own readers? Want to BE INFORMED when someone responds to your comments? thank god for coComment. Basically, from what I can see and have heard, this is a way to aggregate all the comments you make on various blogs into one place. I’m only just starting to get into this commenting caper, but already I am starting to lose track of where I’m leaving a note, which makes it highly unlikely that I’ll see any responses that people are making to anything the conversation that I’m interested in. I can see this being a valuable tool. I’m still waiting for a secret code so I can get in and play with it myself.  (tags: blogs comments aggregation)

hurrah! Google Talk gets useful

i noticed yesterday the new ‘chat’ link in the Gmail navigation, but didn’t pay too much attention as it was obviously a Google Talk thing and I don’t use Google Talk. (Of course, I diligently downloaded it, with everyone else, when it was first released, but I can remember the 2 or 3 times that I’ve used it – and I’m a frequent flyer when it comes to IM). I use Messenger mostly, because most of my friends use Messenger. I used Trillian for a while there so that I could pay attention to the few remaining ICQ friends that I have, but ended up ditching it because it didn’t support the cool emoticons that Messenger was supporting. (I know – how lame… I wish I could tell you it was something more academic, but no… that’s it).

But then, browsing through Tech.Memeorandum (which I’m liking more and more – you might have noticed it in my links from yesterday… thumbs up), I came across this post on the Google Blog that made me suddenly get excited about it.

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