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2008-01-11 Gmail Contacts

A while ago Google changed the user interface for your contacts. I’ve defined a group for every one of my D&D campaigns. The new user interface looks fancier and is less useful than the old one. Slowly Gmail is being bogged down by cruft: There’s menus hidden on buttons, actions triggered by clicking on links, and these can be above, below, or to the left of the main pane. It’s confusing.

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2007-10-12 Usability Loosers

I decided to renew my Xbox Live account. My credit card had expired. Pick the gamer card, account management, membership, payment options… And I ended in a sort of loop: I could redeem codes which I did not have, add a card (which I tried to do but at the very end the system refused it because “it already existed”) and look at my existing credit card. Only after having wasted enough time did I realize that on the screen where it shows you the card you can pick payment options if you want to edit the card, and that’s on the blue button. Everything else is on the green (select) or red button (back).

  1. Don’t just discard the new card even if it uses the same number as the existing one. Just use the information to update the existing info.
  2. Updating the expiry date of a credit card is hopefully going to be a common procedure. Make it more obvious.
  3. Don’t switch UI style in the middle of an operation: Don’t use a menu at first where the user has to use up, down, and select, and then switch to a menu where the user has to hit the appropriate button. Stick to the menu.

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2006-08-09 Product Features and User Goals

KathySierra asks in her latest post how we can get users to really use all the features the product has to offer. [1] Some people have responded that as long as the product does what they want, they don’t care about any of the other features.

So I drew this:

Getting from here to there: Features are incidental

Generally I think it is more interesting to improve the documentation or discoverability of the existing product to get users to do what they want, instead of expanding the feature set of the product to allow the few power-users (or only the developer of the tool!) to do all the things they want.

Discoverability is a part of usability. It allows users to skip reading the manual. Knowing more or less what they want to do, they can use the tool with basic skills such as reading text and clicking links such as to better learn what they might want to do and finally do it.

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Comments on 2006-08-09 Product Features and User Goals

Sure, discoverability is important, but increasing it is often very costly in terms of other important “usability” parts.

For example, icons are usually viewed as a very good thing for “discoverability”. But they draw the attention away for the “productive” control methods, like the command line, keyboard shortcuts, etc. And it’s while they are still availbale, only with icons added. It’s part of the novice/expert mode myth, I guess.

Personally, my favorite tools for increasing “discoverability” are various tooltips, status lines and, of course, auto-completion on the command line.

TheSheep 2006-08-09 14:53 UTC


I actually don’t like icons at all. The kind of discoverability I like in Oddmuse is how you view a page, and find the history link at the bottom. If you follow it, the history page will contain another link at the bottom, showing you a filtered list of changes for the page you’re looking at, with log entries going as far back as possible. Thus, filtering of RecentChanges and listing all changes ever made to a page is hard to explain but easy to discover by users. Similarly, if you search for a term, the search results begin with a link to the list of recent changes filtered by the same term. Again, filtering of recent changes is hard to explain but made easy to discover.

AlexSchroeder 2006-08-09 15:30 UTC


Ich bin eben dran eine Applikation zu designen und freue mich übern jeden Input. Momentan denke ich, eine gute Applikation sollten

  • nur eine Ebenen zur Informationsdarstellung verwenden: also keine Dialoge öffnen, oder sogar Daten in Tabs verstecken
  • nie zwei zeitgleich oder zeitnahe, manuelle Aktionen fordern: Z. B. Maustaste drücken und Maus gleichzeitig bewegen. Oder Doppelklicken. Oder Klicken und gleichzeitig die Shifttaste drücken.

Plus das meiste was JefRaskin sagt ;)

Ich denke es ist extrem schwierig, Applikationen zu designen, die diesen Kriterien genügen, aber die, die es schaffen (z. B. das Web oder Visicalc) haben erstaunlichen Erfolg.

– Chris 2006-08-13 12:58 UTC

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2004-03-31 Usability

Usability problems abound – not only on the web but everywhere. Jakob Nielsen has a good piece about navigation aids in cars and remote controls. [1]

I can personally identify with remote control issues. I like to listen to music when I go to bed. Most of the time I’m using the remote control, it’s essentially dark in my room. And there not many positions I am willing to memorize on my remote control. The sleep button is one of them. But sometimes I also want to find stop, next or previous! But guess what? I need to find the light switch first. One simple solution would be to put the five most important buttons on a row by itself, a row that you can find in total darkness. Those I might be able to memorize.

And if they’d be willing to hire me, I’m sure I could spend a few more minutes on this in order to help them improve usability by another 2000%. :)

The same goes for personal experience in mobile phones. I asked arround. All my friends recommended I buy Nokia because they are the “easiest to use.” And I did. And I never looked back. In fact I once tried to send a text message using a Motorola mobile phone and gave up after a few minutes. Hell!

UI design is becoming a big problem apparently. I read an article here [2] that talks about how it might be a good idea to get web people to create UIs since they work on this kind of thing a lot. I’ve recently been working on a web based tool and the number of problems that crop up is amazing. – NoufalIbrahim

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2004-02-21 Usability

Nice post by Matthew Thomas talks about usability issues in Max OS-X – they guys claiming to have the best usability… [1]

:: “Mac users relate to their machines differently” see [2] and [3] (the guy went to Japan for the Apple store) – Pierre

Yikes! What can I say? Define:pathological! :/

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