“Usability Engineering” Chaper 5 Thoughts

[All quotes are from Jakob Nielsen. Usability Engineering. Kindle Edition.]

An interface should not look like an angry fruit salad of wildly contrasting, highly saturated colors. I swear, the story of my career could be trying to make otherwise intelligent developers understand this….

Even better, the initial use of the training wheels interface did not impair users when they later graduated to the full system. On the contrary, users who had learned the basics of the system with the training wheels interface learned advanced features faster than users who had been using the full system all the time. It’s a nice thought, but I’ve never seen a training wheels version of code pretty much ever. The cost to do so must be prohibitive.

let the users vote on the names, based on a shortlist of possible names. This list can be generated by several means, including suggestions from the developers, from usability specialists, and from asking a few users. This is a great idea that I had never heard of. I’m going to try it in the future.

They should be precise rather than vague or general. For example, instead of saying, “Cannot open this document,” the computer should say “Cannot open `Chapter 5′ because the application is not on the disk”. At this point in web ubiquity, I’d have scraped forum posts as potential sources of help. It’s rare that the developers can come up with all the contingencies, but the users run itno problems and then post about it.

In one experiment, adding different sound effects to each of the modes in a computer game decreased the users’ mode errors by 70%. Mode feedback, particularly in some of the more sophisticated programs (Photoshop, I’m looking at you), could really benefit from good sound design.

Two further differences between heuristic evaluation sessions and traditional user testing are the willingness of the observer to answer questions from the evaluators during the session and the extent to which the evaluators can be provided with hints on using the interface. I’ve done this a lot. It’s fast, effective, and gives a really good idea what the quickstart (text or video) should have in it.

Another way of utilizing different kinds of expertise is the pluralistic usability walkthrough technique [Bias 1991], where the heuristic evaluation is performed by representative users, product developers, and usability specialists. In some ways, this can be the most effective way of training trainers. You get all kinds of benefits: your power users start to get buy-in for the system, since they are now participating in the development of it, and the users who are going through this process give the developers the perspective of a user that is progressing from naive to sophisticated. It’s really the only way to get this sort of insight, since as stated earlier in the book, “It is impossible to unlearn an interface”

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