Before we begin, I have a confession: Several ghosts were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

Happy Halloween!

It’s that time of the year again (well, technically there have been others), where I can reasonably expect to get away with a post like this—and by that, I mean one that ultimately teaches a valuable lesson about life and the man who’s writing it.

For Halloween 2012, I’ve taken up the very scary topic of usability. Now for many of you, the task of making a website usable may keep you up at night, and spawns bad dreams about negative customer feedback, angry UX managers, and engineers who think they’re designers.

And, indeed, if the thought of this sends shivers down your spine—I’ve got another nightmare for you.

In website optimization, usability has two dimensions: 1) the experiences you deliver on the website, and 2) the tool that helps you deliver them.

BOO!

What’s important to understand is how the tool ultimately influences the site. When a tool is difficult to use, ownership is centralized, meaning the experiences that visitors end up seeing are the exclusive genius of the privileged few who create them.

In addition, a hard-to-use tool will translate into fewer personalized experiences.

By contrast, an easy-to-use tool drives a democratization of creativity—a marketplace of ideas in which you can test more, learn more, and do more.

How Do You Get There?

For one, a few Harry Potter spells can’t hurt. (Petrificus Totalus, anyone?)

But in truth, what it comes down to is understanding that the “business user” refers to more than just a marketer. At many organizations, particularly the enterprise, it includes designers and developers.

Each of these business users wants to help the organization (in this respect, no one is a “constraint” per se), but the ways that they do so may be very different. To dig a little deeper into the influence these different needs and goals have on the architecture and feature set of a website optimization tool, Slimer and Bart Simpson sat down for this video.

What’s important for a tool then—and therefore, what drives the most relevance possible—is that it has the capabilities that each type of user needs.

The Spell Ain’t Easy

It’s not easy to build a single car that is both a family sedan and a racing machine. For the same reason, building an optimization tool that’s everything for everyone is easier said than done.

Do a simple litmus test:

  • Can marketers build new campaigns from scratch, using a set of reusable actions, without writing a lick of code?
  • Can designers and developers create custom actions on-the-fly (including code insertion and editing), bypassing backend systems and website builds?

Repello Muggletum!

(And Happy Halloween!)