Thursday, June 22, 2006

Usability: Art and Science

On usability testing and determining the results...

"Yesterday morning we were sitting in the office of one of our usability researchers watching some DVCAM tapes from tests conducted a few weeks ago.

We had a discussion that got me thinking about a set of tests we ran several years ago to determine the discoverability characteristics of contextual tabs.

At the time, contextual tabs were struggling in the usability lab. The visuals and triggers were not obvious enough, and even when people noticed them, the tabs looked so different from normal tabs in the UI that participants thought they were decorative or unactionable.

We kept iterating and iterating on the design, and one of the desperate ideas we had was to pop up a little yellow balloon the first time a contextual tab set appeared saying something like "Hey you, contextual tabs have appeared, you better click here get to the tools for working with your table."

(I'm sure the real wording was a lot more Microsoft-esque.)

Anyway, we wrote a little app to enable us to pop up the balloon at the right time--but it was a totally manual process. We had two keyboards hooked up to the usability computer, and when the contextual tabs appeared, one of us in the back room would press F10 on our keyboard to make the balloon appear. So the timing was a little weird, but it was cheaper than building the feature directly into the product itself."   continued ...   (Via Jensen Harris)

Findability of features need to balance with the rest of the UI. - User Interface Design, Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Ergonomics

Findability of features need to balance with the rest of the UI


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