[Pdx-pm] "Seems perfectly sensible to me" (was Re: Making web pages that display "working on your request")

Michael G Schwern schwern at pobox.com
Fri Aug 3 00:13:37 PDT 2007

Austin Schutz wrote:
> 	So.. after all the ranting, what's the proposed solution? Have the
> users take a survey for every minute UI change?

Before you can find a real solution must first understand what the real
problem is.  With a proposed solution like that, I'm not sure you understand.
 That's ok, it takes a number of blows to sink in.

User focus groups vetting all your changes doesn't solve the real problem.
The programmers are designing unusable features, they're doing the wrong
thing.  Then the "user interface group" comes along, points out what's wrong
and the programmers have to correct their mistakes.  Then the programmers do
some more wrong things and the UI group fixes them.  Its like a blind driver
with a guy in the back seat yelling "LEFT!" "RIGHT!" "LEFT!" "RIGHT!"
zig-zagging down the road, covering twice as much ground as going straight
should, not really understanding why he's turning the wheel, hitting the odd
light pole and pedestrian along the way.  The solution isn't to develop a
better signaling system between the back seat and the driver, the solution it
to take off the blindfold.

A solution is to "Play Dumb".
This involves being aware of what you know that the user does not and
switching off those parts of your brain while using the product.  It takes
time and effort.  It takes sitting down with the user and seeing how they use
the product.  It takes more than I can cover in an email. :)

There's an entire discipline for this called Human Interface Design or
Interaction Design and Eric can probably tell you more.

To that end, I highly recommend reading "The Design Of Everyday Things" by
Donald Norman particularly focusing on the discussion of how a user model is
formed.  If you ever wonder how devices are designed that don't need
instructions, read that book.

The other two which keep getting mentioned, but I haven't read myself, are
"Don't Make Me Think" and "The Inmates Are Running The Asylum".  And that's
someone's cue to fill in about those books.

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