Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ease-of-use crisis: Designers or 'feature creeps'?

Complexity and ease of use ...

"A panel of experts on "ease of use" whose experience ranges from technology design to behavioral psychology agreed rather ruefully Wednesday (April 4) that one of the most complicated challenges in electronic engineering is simplicity.

Their conclusions echoed the irony of one audience member—an attorney with Silicon Valley law firm Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati—who defined "technology" as "something that doesn't quite work yet."

Panelist B.J. Fogg, a psychologist who founded Stanford University's Persuasive Technology Lab, summarized the issue by saying that "every possibility you add to an interface increases your likelihood of failure" in the marketplace.

Tim Plowman, a professor who has studied human behavior at the University of California at Berkeley and Santa Clara University, addressed the basic issue of convincing designers to devise interfaces that are intuitively accessible to users of all ages and levels of technical sophistication. "It is much, much harder," he said, "to achieve simplicity in interaction design."

Despite the difficulties, however, said moderator Junko Yoshida, news editor of EE Times, ease of use has become a "grave issue" in engineering. Designers, she said, must "listen to the SOS from consumers."

The forum was sponsored by the MIT Club of Northern California and developed by the SmartSilvers Alliance, an organization concerned with technology accessibility issues among the elderly.

Bill Moggridge, founder of IDEO, a firm that designs user-centered products and services, noted that older users are slower to adapt to electronic device complexity because older users are more complex themselves, with "more things on our minds." He said, "Among us wrinklies, it's less likely that we'll get it right away, unlike younger people."    (Continued via EETimes.com)    [Usability Resources]

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