Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Interview: Simplifying Web app design

An interview with Robert Hoekman Jr. ...


"If we make the application too simple is there a risk the user will get bored of it?

You don't get bored with the hammer, you get bored with the hammering.

Web applications are tools. They enable people to perform activities, get things done, organise information, and so on. As long as the need exists to perform these activities, the need for the Web app will persist as well. And since we're all busy, frantic people who are constantly inundated by the business of our lives, we appreciate simple solutions that enable us to do what we need to do in a quick and effective manner.

I doubt that many people have wished for a more complicated hammer. And despite that so many of us make purchasing decisions based on feature lists, we really don't end up using more of a particular than we need. The average cell phone, for example, comes loaded with features, and many people never even tap into half of what it can do. In the end, we use only what we need to use.

If a hammer is all you need, a hammer is what you'll use. And every time you use the hammer, you'll appreciate how simple it was to get the job done.

What are some of the most important Web usability issues to consider?

I wish it was as easy as writing a list, but in reality, the most important issues to consider all relate to whether or not we're communicating the right things to our users.

Our sites and applications communicate things to users all the time. Our job is to ensure we're communicating the right information, the right cues about how something works, and so on. Regardless of whether you're working on a drag-and-drop interaction or a registration form, the key to a good design is making sure the user will have the information and clues she needs to succeed with the design.

What is the biggest challenge of designing usable Web applications?

Sadly, the biggest challenge seems to be getting buy-in and support for design. As a consultant, I don't encounter this problem much -- when companies come to me, they've already decided they need design work -- but I've experienced this often with in-house positions, and it's the number one thing I'm asked about by the community.

Every situation is different, and each person struggling to get buy-in for design has to navigate the internal politics in a way that's appropriate for that organisation, but there are a few things I've seen work well in a myriad of circumstances."    (Continued via Builder AU)    [Usability Resources]

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