Archive of: usability

  • IRIX usability report from 1993

    This report on an IRIX OS release from 1993 shows that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

    It’s full of great advice such as:

    Aim for simplicity in design, not complexity. Make a few things work really well; don’t have 1000 flaky programs. Be willing to cut features; who’s going to be more pissed off: a customer who was promised a feature that doesn’t appear, or the same customer who gets the promised feature, and after months of struggling with it, discovers he can’t make it work?

    And a few brilliant burns:

    Marketing - Engineering Disconnect: “Marketing – where the rubber meets the sky.”

    (via O’Reilly Ideas’ 4 Short Links)

  • Egalitarianism and Progressive Enhancement

    Progressive enhancement follows the Golden Rule because it is concerned with the “other”. That’s why accessibility is such a key part of building websites following the progressive enhancement philosophy. It’s about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes—someone whose abilities and situation probably differ from yours. We are a diverse lot after all.

    One hell of a read from Aaron Gustafson on the Golden rule, egalitarianism and the philosophy of progressive enhancement in web design.

  • Where to begin?

    Where to begin?

    • Incomprehensible industry jargon? Check. (What is a “TOD”, why would I care?)
    • Apostrophe abuse? Check.
    • Weirdly formatted unreadable text? Check.
    • Poorly designed machine with usability failures leading to poorly designed poster to cover same? Check.

    I don’t know what pisses me off more; that the process of collecting tickets is so badly designed it requires a sign like this to be stuck to the machine, or that the sign itself is so bloody awful.

  • Usability

    Usability goes all the way. It starts right at the database design. Or actually even at the design of the programming language. Most people, working on system that can use a grain of usability, tend to think that usability is only and merely a magical trade of arranging elements on an interface. But, if the database architecture is wrong, the code will be wrong. If the code is wrong, the behaviour is wrong. And if the behaviour is wrong, then no javascript can ever solve the real problem.

    - Bèr Kessels

  • Testify

    Information architecture. Usability. Accessibility. Web standards. If you don’t know about these things, stop designing websites until you have learned. Competence in graphic design is merely a baseline; it does not qualify you to create user experiences for the web.

    - Jeffrey Zeldman

  • The Page Paradigm

    On any given Web page, users will either…

    • click something that appears to take them closer to the fulfillment of their goal,
    • or click the Back button on their Web browser.

    Mark Hurst

  • Of kinetic energy and friction

    Interesting new article by Nick Usborne over on A List Apart explaining how to overcome the reluctance of users to fill in forms by imparting a little more energy into the process.

    A great deal of research has been done on shopping cart abandonment. Typically, when a hundred people start buying something online, of those who do not complete the purchase, seventy gave up somewhere while on the shopping cart pages.

    Why? Too little energy. Too much friction.

    As a formula, it is easy to visualize. In order to maximize the success of your site you need to increase the energy you transfer to your readers, and reduce the friction within the page or pages on which the reader has to do something.

  • Yahoo! release UI and design patterns library

    Yahoo! (god I hate that punctuation) have released a collection of user interface controls and core utilities (calendar, tree-view, drag and drop, event access) under a BSD license for the world to enjoy.

    If that wasn’t enough they’ve also published the first batch from their design patterns library, under a Creative Commons license, in what they’re saying will become a monthly release cycle.

    If you’re not familiar with design patterns they are a way of describing the optimal solution to a common problem, the best way to design a breadcrumb trail for example. There is more on design patterns over at the IAWiki.

    This is interesting move by Yahoo! (yep, still hate it), but one that fits in with the ‘community-led’ ethos that seems to have become the norm over there with the recent acquisitions of flickr and

    I’m looking forward to spending some time exploring this new resource.

    Update: I forgot to mention that there is also a new blog to go along with these releases, the Yahoo! User Interface Blog.

  • Global navigation not worthwhile?

    How much stock do we put in global navigation and could those resources be better spent elsewhere? Quite possibly according to Jared Spool at

    Maybe they’ll click on the global navigation on the home page (however, probably not, if the page is well designed). Then they’ll never click on it again, because, after all, they are now looking for local information - not global information

    We’ve observed that it’s almost always the case that if a user is clicking on global navigation, it’s because they are completely lost.

    Having global navigation isn’t a bad thing. It’s just not something that should garner a lot of resources, as it’s unlikely to be important in the user experience.

    Here’s something interesting to think about. How much of a role does the global navigation play in orientating first time users to the site before they get to the local content? Isn’t that a useful thing and worth spending time on? As a friend said to me last night: “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”.

    And I wonder does this differ between the web as software interface and the web as hypertext system? Look at flickr’s use of global navigation - the frequented destinations at the top and the big-fat-footer (I just made that up) - both of which I know I use a lot.

    I’d ponder more, but I’m on holiday in 2 hours. Woo!

    Hat tip:

  • McAfee reduces costs with user-centered design

    Great article with 23 tips on how McAfee cut their support calls by 90% for a new product, by focusing on user-centered design.

    Hat tip:

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