Often good web usability goes unnoticed, as it probably should. At the basic level, a web site is considered good if users can quickly find what they need and easily accomplish their intended task. DailyLit.com does just that.
I just discovered DailyLit a few days ago and I have been impressed with its usability. The site gives users access to books, short stories, and poetry that has been chunked into brief passages which can be read in just a minute or two. These chunks can be read on the site or delivered in daily segments via email or RSS feed.
Immediately upon arrival, I knew what I could do on the site: find books to read online and subscribe to daily readings of my choice. The site design is minimalistic, giving exactly the information their audience needs without any extra distraction.
DailyLit.com home page
The options for taking action are clear thanks to simple, well-organized navigation headings like Browse Books, Forum, Learn More, Log In, Register. Special emphasis is placed on browsing books with a portion of the navigation dedicated to browsing by Title, Author, Category, or performing a keyword search. So easy.
I browsed by category and found The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which I have never read and which also happened to be free (right in my price range, though many of the titles are quite reasonably priced at $4-8 each). With my selection made, I was presented with the basic specs: number of installments, price, summary of the book, opening passage, and options to subscribe or add it to my “to read” list.
DailyLit.com book description page (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)
Then came the part that always makes me wonder if I will want to forget all my work and leave the site: registration. You know how it can be. Some sites want every last detail and you have to weigh your desire for getting the information you want with how much personal information you are willing to divulge. I mean really, what do those companies need a fax number for anyway? DailyLit is spot on. They only ask for a username, a password, your email address, and a check in the box to indicate you accept their terms. That’s it. That’s all you have to tell DailyLit to get your free book. Obviously if you have selected a book that requires purchase, you will have to enter more thorough billing information. I haven’t tried that yet, so I don’t know what the process looks like.
DailyLit.com registration form
After this painless registration process, you are able to add more information to your profile if you so desire. If not, carry on with subscribing to your book.
So far I have read a few short stories by Kate Chopin right on their site and now have The Adventures of Tom Sawyer delivered daily to my RSS reader in 91 installments. I can read an entry a day if my time is limited or at the end of an entry I can select an option to have the next installment delivered immediately. At worst, in 91 days I will have completed a classic.
DailyLit has really nailed usability. It has a clear purpose and has developed a streamlined, user-friendly (not to mention stylish) web site. Hats off to their design and development teams.
Updated 10/28/08: I want to add that in order to receive DailyLit readings, you don’t even have to enter a username and password as I mentioned in my original post. If you want to receive your installments by email, you can bypass registration altogether, opting instead to enter only your email address and agree to the Terms & Conditions. One less username and password to remember in this crazy online life. Who wouldn’t appreciate that?