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Immersibility: What the world needs now?

by Lee Zukor

"Immersibility" is a concept that takes a holistic approach to the quality of the Web user experience. The concept is discussed on www.immersibility.com. The site results from work by agency.com, the Nielsen Norman Group and Gomoll Research & Design. The site also offers a tool called "the immersibility index" intended to measure, in a holistic manner, the quality of the Web user experience.

The site defines immersibility as "the depth of relationship" a site creates with its users and that "immerse[s] the user in the experience." Immersibility has four "equal and interdependent dimensions": branding, functionality, usability, and content. The immersibility index is a system for evaluating and rating a web site in the context of each dimension. 

The site contends that "very successful Web sites" are more than the sum of their parts. They don't just offer exceptional functionality, or compelling graphic design, or rich information, or high usability, but rather provide all these elements, in "an appropriate balance." Moreover, "not all Web sites share the same goals .... The appropriate balance of the four dimensions depends on the online objectives a company has set for itself."

As conceptually compelling as immersibility is, the immersibility site offers little  guidance for implementing an immersibility initiative within an organization. For example,  Who decides what the site's primary goals are? Marketing? Usability? Who owns the immersibility initiative within a project? 

Other questions arise as well. What does this mean for the future of usability testing? Will companies start doing immersibility studies in the place of usability studies? Is this a good thing?

Though immersibility and the immersibility index may raise as many questions as they answer, there is a lot to recommend them. They also suggest that a broader understanding of the user experience and wider cooperation among  disciplines may be necessary for usability people.