It happened late on Tuesday night. Of course I was working. "Have you seen this?" my colleague Chris Mills texted. He followed up with the link to a site where a rather devilish-looking UX professional promised to get drunk and evaluate the website of your choice. Only $75! I knew I had to do it, and that Gizmodo had to be his target.
The UX designer in question is Richard Littauer, currently living in Bali, who actually works doing UX projects during his sober days. But, like me, he still messes around with his work at night — sometimes over a beer or ten. And so on a whim, Littauer created a site called The User Is Drunk. There he wrote:
One of the core tenets of UX is that you've got to design like "the user is drunk." Any feature of your site has to be able to be used by someone who could be drunk - because, invariably, the user will mess it up otherwise. Wonderful idea. The thing is, it is hard to test.
I and a lot of beer will test this for you.
He posted links to the site on HackerNews and Twitter. The response was so huge, even late on a Tuesday night, that he immediately upped his price from $50 to $75 (today it's at $250). Slightly drunk myself, I emailed Littauer and asked if he'd do an evaluation of Gizmodo, by using the site and trying to create a user account with Kinja, our publishing tool. He said he would do it in the next few hours, and I threw in an extra $25 to cover as much beer as he wanted.
I wasn't the only one who wanted his services. Littauer emailed me later to say:
The response has been absolutely incredible. I've received many requests, ranging from sober work to people asking if they could be my intern. I've gotten a ton of people wanting to be hired, which, frankly, is not surprising. I advertised solely by posting on HackerNews and on Twitter. The idea speaks for itself, and it got out fairly quick - it was the top of HN for almost an entire day, and #1 for 3 hours. The clients have been all over the place.
Here's his live screencast of the drunken Gizmodo experience, which we've edited for length (you can watch the full 12 minutes here):
This video had everybody at Giz laughing and typing "LOL" into Slack. Littauer wrote me a formal report the next morning, when he was sober. He said the drunk part is a lot easier than the sober evaluation:
Drunk user experience is a lot easier, because I can just speak - normal UX feedback requires much more writing and moderation, which can affect your judgment in different ways. It's nice to be able to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Also, it is far more fun, mostly because I am hanging out with friends and then just leave for a bit and come back to a new beer.
The upshot? A drunk person — and perhaps even a sober one — will love Gizmodo's editing tools. But they might not be able to find those editing tools. And if you are reading Gizmodo with an ad blocker on, you are actually missing a bunch of our non-ad content. You can read the full report below.
Despite the gimmick, I think the drunk user test is actually a good barometer of how usable a site is — not because most users are drunk, but because most of us read websites when we are distracted by a million other things. Our brains are not entirely focused on that one website, and therefore we may not pay enough attention to find navigation buttons that are disguised as weird teeny icons. And we may just lose patience and give up if it's not easy to get access to the fun/interesting/important stuff we want.
I use Gizmodo every day, and the whole site is as familiar to me as my actual real-life desk. So it was a good reality check to see what a typical (drunk) user deals with when they pay a visit to my digital home.