Saturday, April 25, 2009

You're only a first-time user once

Does everyone love my UX right out of the box? ...

"We’ve all got our own personal benchmarks for what makes a good user experience. My personal list includes a few: Does it delight me? Will I recommend it to my friends and colleagues? Would I have used the same approach if I had designed the product? I’ve found among some product executives one particular pattern for this subjective evaluation criteria that is both humorous and troublesome: “Would my mother/grandmother/Luddite Uncle Bill be able to use this product on the first try?”

While there is a sort of noble aspirational quality to this kind of thinking—let’s make everything so dead simple that any person can use every product—it also sets the bar for the experience rather low. I imagine a sea of step-by-step wizard dialogs that target the lowest common denominator and force everyone else to step through the same predefined (and very explicit) experience. If I’m designing a product for people who have specialized knowledge, I want to leverage that knowledge in the product. Why force people to walk when they can run? I’ll want to provide these people with clear, appropriate pathways through the product, but I also want these specialized users to be able to forge a variety of their own pathways through the interface, dependent on the specifics of their situation or how they want to do things.

I once worked with a client to design an intravenous medication delivery device called an infusion pump. This is a machine that nurses in hospitals use to administer drugs to patients by attaching a bag of medication to the device and specifying delivery parameters such as how long and how fast to dispense the medicine. This is critical stuff; the consequences of a mistake could be catastrophic.

Based on our field research, we learned that the nurses who use these devices are required to attend an in-service training session to learn how to use new clinical equipment such as this infusion pump. We also discovered that even when using a new device after training, nurses prefer to watch others who were more experienced use the device until they felt comfortable with it themselves. Under no circumstances, ever, would a nurse even consider walking up to an IV device that she had never seen before and attempt to program an infusion. It just wouldn’t happen."    (Continued via Cooper Journal, Steve Calde)    [Usability Resources]

Training Wheels - Usability, User Interface Design

Training Wheels

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