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Alertbox: Acting on User Research (and update on Bush vs Kerry usability)

From: Jakob Nielsen <alertbox@nngroup.com>
Date: Mon, 08 Nov 2004 09:00:00 -0800
To: "Alertbox Announcement List" <alertbox@laser.sparklist.com>
Message-Id: <SPARKLIST-10108321-3326126-2004.11.08-09.00.05--public-qt-comments#w3.org@laser.sparklist.com>

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox for November 8 is now online at:
   http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20041108.html

Summary:
User research offers a learning opportunity that can help you build an
understanding of user behavior, but you must resolve discrepancies between
research findings and your own beliefs.

------------

Once again, the candidate who scored highest on usability guidelines won
the U.S. presidential election. (I did a similar comparison when Clinton
defeated Dole; he also followed more usability guidelines on his website.)
 
For this year's pre-election analysis see: 
   http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20040920.html
 
Although I don't actually claim that Bush won because of usability, I do
think that wise use of email newsletters contributed to his victory. I
analyzed the email newsletters sent out by both candidates in the week
prior to the election. The predominant theme of each message was
distributed as follows:
 
                      Bush   Kerry
   Give Money           8%     57%
   Get Out the Vote    38%     29%
   Issues/Events       54%     14%
 
(I didn't count the message each candidate sent on or just before Election
Day asking recipients for their vote.)
 
As this analysis shows, Kerry supporters were bombarded by repeated
fundraising requests, to the extent that many of them probably tuned out
the newsletter in the final critical days. Although the Internet is great
for collecting money from the masses, there is a limit. Kerry exceeded it.
 
Bush sent more messages than Kerry asking supporters to get *other* voters
to go to the polls and vote for him. This is a more appropriate use of the
newsletter medium because it connects emotionally with subscribers. Being
treated as an active participant in the civics process is more motivating
than being regarded as an open wallet.
 
Bush also repeatedly sent out information that promoted himself and
attacked his opponent in relation to current events (such as the Osama
video). This is a good strategy: offering newsworthy content makes
subscribers more likely to continue opening newsletters. Up-to-the-minute
arguments are a classic use of email and gave Bush's supporters fodder in
their get-out-the-vote efforts, thus reinforcing the newsletter's value in
getting voters to the polls.

In summary, Kerry used his newsletter to collect money. Bush used his to
increase voter turnout, and he won because he was better at turning out
his base. Understanding the strength of email newsletters thus directly
contributed to Bush's victory, so his Internet team can claim some credit
for the outcome.


---
Nielsen Norman Group, 48921 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont, CA 94539 USA
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Received on Monday, 8 November 2004 17:03:26 UTC

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