Monday, November 19, 2007

Bruce Tognazzini on human-computer interaction

The Web as Tog sees it ...

"Bruce Tognazzini was Apple's 66th employee, developing the company's first usability guidelines and founding its Human Interface team.

Almost thirty years later, he's a principal at Nielsen Norman Group and still making his feelings known when companies commit design errors.

Here, 'Tog' gives us a variety of thoughts on interface design, freedom, the future of computing, the iPhone's place in world history and why he travels around in a 400 sq ft motorhome while towing a 4x4 and two Segways.

- What is the main usability/user experience mistake you see on the web?

The level of open hostility that websites display is breathtaking. For every Bed, Bath & Beyond, with its smooth, comfortable user experience, there are a thousand amateurish websites that appear to feel that torturing their customers is a really good idea.

In the main, this has resulted from striving to achieve mediocrity, rather than excellence, but it is as devastating to the user experience as if they had set out to achieve hostility.

The worst single fault is throwing away the user’s work. You see this in travel sites, where the user spends an hour selecting airline tickets for dates five months hence, then tries searching for a hotel for that same period, only to find the site has thrown away the dates and is assuming the user wants a hotel for tomorrow night.

The customer playing “what if” with different airlines and different hotels may have to enter the same group of dates as many as a dozen times during these transactions -often resulting in their making a mistake the last, fateful time, and ending up with worthless airline tickets for the wrong dates.

Then there’s the worst single bit of information that can be discarded: the user’s decision to uncheck the box saying, “Yes! I want you to spam me fourteen times a day for the rest of my life!” that appears embedded in the order page.

Go back to change anything on that page, and they’ll turn the checkbox back on. How do these people imagine customers feel later when the spam they specifically rejected starts rolling in?

- You recently blogged about how sites can speed up 'subjective time' for users. Could you expand on that?

* Rid your site of time-dependent media. Specifically, eliminate all Flash and video that is not specifically directed at the product or service being sold or discussed and that is not under the direct and voluntary control of the user.
* Support tabbed browsing.
* Limit the number of pages and interactions necessary for a user to accomplish his or her task.
* Do “boredom testing", where you observe new and experienced users and see where they fidgit, their mind and eyes wander, or they sit back with arms crossed.
* Work out solutions so that when you must do some work “behind the scenes", the user is engaged in decision-making and doesn’t miss your presence. Use Firefox’s ability to pre-fetch pages, for example, so when the user is ready to go, you are ready to go, too."    (Continued via E-consultancy)    [Usability Resources]


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