Privacy, usability and the path of least resistance
Going back to the issue of privacy – I saw this post at ReadWriteWeb and it confirmed something I’ve suspected for awhile: that although many people claim to be concerned about their privacy online, many of them never use the options available to them for managing their various profiles. In fact, nearly 60% of the people in the study cited didn’t know if their profiles were public or not. This is a perfect example of what Kevin Kelly calls “triumph of the default.” The vast majority of users are stymied by the sheer number of choices available, so they don’t choose (or they choose by not choosing).
I’m exploring this in my work right now with usability testing. We have software and services that are pretty robust and have a lot of features, but most of those features never get used. We’re trying to determine which options are the most useful to most of our customers so we can set intelligent defaults. We don’t want people to have to be super-users to get good results from our site, but it can be difficult to find the balance between ease of use and quality of results. This is one of the reasons we do iterative testing. Test, tweak, test again, tweak some more…the hard part is knowing when to stop.