Friday, April 21, 2006

Dividing User Time Between Goal And Tool

Users want to think about how to accomplish tasks, not how to use the tools...

"Designers have to worry about two types of time their user spends interacting with their design: Tool Time and Goal Time.

Imagine the user wants to put together a presentation in Microsoft PowerPoint. They’ll spend some time refining what they want to say to their audience: What’s the key message? What are the right details? Are they being too confusing? Should they communicate with words, images, or charts? Other time they’ll spend making things bold, green, and flashy.

The difference between goal time and tool time is the increase in quality gained by spending the time. When the user is working on refining presentation’s content, they are investing in goal time. The more goal time they can invest in, the better the quality their result.

(Of course, I don’t think my sixteen-year-old son could not create a presentation on Information Scent as well as I could just because I have more skills, knowledge, and experience at doing these things. However, let’s assume, for purposes of this posting, that we’re well within our user’s upper limits.)

In contrast, tool time, when extended doesn’t add to the quality of the result. If it takes twice as long to change a bulleted list to be a numbered list, the presentation won’t be any better quality.

In fact, we can cut the amount of tool time in half without seeing any degradation in quality. That means, we leave more time for the user to put towards goal time.

When Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about Flow, he’s talking about the ultimate goal time. Not all goal time achieves flow, but when it does, that’s when we see the best quality improvements. Creating a design that helps users reach the flow state is what we should strive for."   continued ...   (Via UIE)

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