Usability week 2011 – Application usability

Nielsen Norman Group Usability Week 2011,

“Application Usability one”
session on 4th of April 2011 by Garett Goldfield.


My notes and feedback from this session:

  • This session was mainly focused on individual components (controls) usability issues
  • “Easy to use” (frequent users target) vs easy to learn (new users target)
  • What users WANT in applications
    • Control
    • Understanding
    • Recoverability
    • Consistency
    • Clutter Free (biggest problem in design now a days … everything is added nothing is removed / creates confusion)
    • Give satisfaction (is a differentiator)
    • Exceed Expectations (is a differentiator)
  • Primitives (widgets/controls/design patterns) that work the way the users expect will be “easy to use”. It is based on people habits. People always rely on their habits (Even for tackling a new type of problem they will use previous habits/experience/knowledge and try to apply it to the new one)
  • Gestalt principles (Sampling) : GROUPING – how human brain works to understand things
    • Proximity
    • Similarity
    • Closure
  • Recognition of things – easier then recall for a human – directly applicable to “browse by subject” where subjects/sub-subjects and terms are listed for the user instead of searching for a term
  • Big Icons/menus -> Fitt’s Law (military source: close and thus big targets are easier to hit than distant and thus small ones)
  • Main things influencing usability:
    • Order and flow (left-right & top- down for western world) influences usability
    • Chronology influences usability (don’t put options after the download button for example)
    • Consistency (confusing design influences usability)
  • Menus
    • Needs precise, accurate, meaningful and short labeling. Use the most important word(s)
    • Use less than 7 menus if possible
    • Respect a logical order for menu ordering and items in a menu ordering
    • For Windows/Apple: use their standard…don’t change the habit!
    • Avoid abbreviations & acronyms in menus (Drop down especially). Rather use a long version than “handicapping” the understanding of the user. Best is to test options.
    • Contextual menus
      • Very useful for experienced users
      • Most user are not aware of it
    • Avoid:
      • Cascading menus more than 2 levels (main and submenu)
      • Scrolling menus
    • Trends are at the moment for horizontal navigation
    • List menus show all options at once…user: see all, pick one.
    • Panel menus allow
      • Display of all options
      • Grouping
      • Sequencing (mini process implementation possible to “walk” the user to selecting more grouped options)
      • Very close to Web metaphor
      • eg. John Deer web site homepage.
  • TABS
    • ATTENTION: options remain hidden until tab is clicked
    • Can be used to ORGANIZE or to CATEGORIZE
    • Used as views or as process
    • Double tab is actually a menu on two levels
  • Toolbars
    • Always use tooltips
    • no toolbar without alternative menu
  • Most frequently used items in a list:
    • You can place 1 or 2 or 3 at the top of the list…then starting the alphabetical order.
  • Assistance to a page:
    • Instructional text: in-field prompts might do thinks less attractive (field already full)..sometimes also repetitive info…and attention with the text selection if the user tries to fill in that field…
    • Use anyway tooltips, embedded prompts and in text fields or example texts
    • Give controls explanations. Link out to more explanation if necessary
    • Write for eye scanning!
    • Assistance tone : friendly error handle – pay attention to words used
      • Describe the problem!
      • Don’t blame de user
      • Suggest ways to solve
  • Form filling:
    • Make fields choice as much as possible rather than free form
    • Accept any format (more work for computer not for the user – related to the placement of the complexity problem also evocated by Gerry McGovern so often)
    • Use Smart defaults (based on user knowledge) – pre fill fields
  • Dialog boxes…try to avoid using them as much as possible…
  • Word wheel/predictive search works way better than the key-search (repeatedly type a letter for instance to advance in a list of words)
  • Search design patterns
    • Search box long enough to suggest
    • Button labeled “search”
    • Group other similar functionality afterward (advanced search, index, sitemap)
    • Make sure the location is consistent on all pages
    • Include brief instructions or links to search tips.
    • Eye tracking for SEARCH:
      • 44% at top or left top
      • 56% at right top
  • use previews (for documents, images, templates)
  • UNDO gives use confidence…warn if actions are not undoable!!
  • Grouping: white spaces can group effectively without much noise on the page
  • MAPS: if you use maps on your site or related search, make sure the map is clickable!
  • Progress: if you drive the user through a process…communicate him the progress (Step x from n)
  • if you have a state related activity in your browser, foresee a specific SAVE button – it gives users confidence!!
  • When using controls and where to place them…think how the users will use them

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: