Friday, June 30, 2006

Discoverability

Solving usability testing issues for Windows vs. Mac - "a Macintosh girl in a Microsoft world" - cute ...

"Any user experience researcher who has been on the job for more than five nanoseconds is an expert in discoverability. You have to be. One of the problems that any large application (and most small ones, for that matter) have is that they've built in some really cool and useful functions, but they're buried somewhere. All of the work that we've put into a cool new feature doesn't do anything for our users if most of them can't find it. In a Windows environment, it's all too common to find functions that are only accessible by the contextual menu (the menu that pops up when you right-click). Thankfully, Mac developers are generally (although not always!) in the habit of assuming that a user only has a one-button mouse and doesn't know how to control-click, so they tend to stay away from contextual-only features.

When I'm in a usability lab with a user, it's easy to figure out discoverability issues. If I can't determine what the problem is just by watching them, I can ask them questions. They might not be able to put their finger on the problem, but it's my job to be able to identify it anyway.

My usability lab isn't the only way that we get feedback about our products, of course. There's the newsgroups and the product feedback page, there's meeting someone on a plane, there's informal conversations at the upcoming WWDC. Sometimes, when I see this feedback, it's hard for me to discover the issue. You see, discoverability is a two-way street: if I can't discover what the problem is, I can't do anything to fix it. Anyone on our test team can tell you how frustrating it is to get a bug report that doesn't include all of the relevant details and reproduction steps. This is true for what I do as well. It's frustrating to know that you have a problem, but that I don't have sufficient information about it to figure out what to do about it."   continued ...   (Via go ahead, mac my day)

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