Sunday, July 01, 2007

User eXperience Design: Microsoft's Inductive User Interface

Microsoft's take on the next steps in user interface design ...

"MSDN (the Microsoft Developers Network) has a short introduction to a relatively new trend in the way Microsoft thinks about Interface Design.

Inductive User Interface (IUI for short) is a term that describes the collection of methods and guidelines for designing interfaces that, according to Microsoft, are easier to follow than the current generation of software products are.

According to Microsoft, IUI gained traction as a design process as a result of the research they’ve done on actual users performing tasks on their products. In short, they found that a number of important assumptions that are commonly made by User Experience practitioners are incorrect. They found that, contrary to the commonly held notion, most users are unable to successfully perform even basic computer tasks. The article stated 3 key reasons as to why they have concluded that software is hard to use:

• User’s don’t understand the software’s conceptual model. From the original article:
“The interface design for most current software products assumes that users will understand a conceptual model that the designers carefully crafted. Unfortunately, most users don't seem to ever acquire a mental model that is thorough and accurate enough to guide their navigation. These users aren't dumb — they are just very busy and overloaded with information. They do not have the time, energy, or desire to wonder about a conceptual model for their software.”

• Even expert users never master common interface tasks. From the original article:
Designers know that new users may have trouble at first, but expect these problems to vanish as users learn common tasks. Usability data indicates this often doesn't happen. In one study, researchers set up automated equipment to videotape users at home. The tapes showed that users focusing on the task at hand do not necessarily notice the procedure they are following and do not learn from the experience. The next time users perform the same operation; they may stumble through it in exactly the same way.

• Every piece of functionality on a screen takes effort to figure out how to use. From the article:
Most software products are designed for (the few) users who understand its conceptual model and have mastered common procedures. For the majority of customers, each feature or procedure is a frustrating, unwanted puzzle. Users might assume these puzzles are an unavoidable cost of using computers, but they would certainly be happier without this burden.

Most current software GUI’s aren’t addressing these problems. Instead, assuming the user’s (1) are familiar with standard Interface controls (2) have the time or the desire to learn the software’s conceptual model (3) Are willing to put up with a steep learning curve for additional functionality rather than use a more basic, yet simpler product.

As a result is what Microsoft calls the Deductive User Interface (see image). An Inductive User Interface is one whose screens require the user to figure out what can be done, and how to do it. The more time spent trying to figure out what can be done, the less energy and patience the user has left to actually perform them.

Microsoft’s solution is to design interfaces that induce, or lead, the user through one task at a time. As such, the computer screen should act not unlike an expert standing over the user’s shoulder, directing them through one screen at a time."    (Continued via Pathfinder)    [Usability Resources]

What do I do here? - Usability, User Interface Design

What do I do here?


Blogger murli said...

I appreciate the overall point being made, but what troubles me is that this is exactly the logic that went into the design of the much-reviled and rapidly-snuffed-out Microsoft Bob.

8:35 PM  

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