What's Not Best: Online Video Demonstrations for How to Do Basic Tasks on a Website

I went to a site today (which shall remain nameless) to do a basic task. I was unable to find the “sign-in” area so I could sign in and take care of things.

Then I noticed a peculiar area on the home page: “How-To Video Demonstrations.” Normally one would think, “What a creative idea.”

Except that these video demonstrations are for basic tasks on the website that should not have to be demonstrated. They include: “How to register for an account on our site,” “how to log in to your account,” “how to enroll in online billing,” and “how to pay your bill online.”

Those things should not have to be demonstrated. They are basic, fundamental tasks, and it wastes the user’s time to have to a watch a video to know how to do them.

It is not hard to make the site easy to use such that users will find basic tasks immediately evident. That’s what a good site does. It makes things so simple that they do not need to be demonstrated.

And when it comes to signing in to your account, this site has apparently taken a process that thousands of sites have made simple and turned it into a nightmare of complexity. Which they then “rescue” with this creative idea of video demonstrations. This is one instance where a creative idea should not have been necessary.

Or, better, the way to be creative here would have been to make the way to do these actions self-evident. That’s what good sites do.

Maximizing usability, in fact, is the proper goal and aim of any site on the web, because if you can’t use the site easily, the content will lie dormant and the brand value of the company will diminish in the user’s eyes.

Nobody does a better job of laying out how to make a site usable than Steve Krug in Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition, which I highly recommend for those who are interested in the subject of making websites usable.

In the meantime, I’m going to be watching an online video demonstration…

  • Don

    Have you seen the work by Common Craft?

    While not quite what the same thing, they have produced some excellent “how to” videos on using wikis, social bookmarking sites, blogs, etc.

  • http://www.sayssimpleton.blogspot.com Ched

    basic tasks on the website that should not have to be demonstrated.

    Hearty Amens. The insurance company website I use gives me three confirmation screens making sure I absolutely want to logout.

    Amazon.com’s “if you’re not JohnSmith, click here” business also seems shady. Sometimes I am me, but I just want to log out.

  • Matt

    Don, I haven’t seen their work. Thanks for the note.

  • Jon Winslow

    I’ll second that recommendation. It’s a quick, easy, informative read.