Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Review and notes from "Don't Make Me Think": Part 4

Don't Make Me Think: Part 4
all Web users are unique, and all Web use is basically idiosyncratic.
There is no "average" or "typical" user.  Everyone is on the web to accomplish their specific task at the time.  You need to facilitate your web sites function.  Don't try to figure out what people "like" or "dislike".  Everyone is different, use what works best for the functionality of your web site.
 The problem is there are no simple "right" answers for most Web design questions (at least not for the important ones).  What works is good, integrated design that fills a need - carefully thought out, well executed, and tested.  [...]  The right kind of question to ask is "Does this pulldown, with theses items and this wording in this context on this page create a good experience for most people who are likely to use this site?
Don't forget the tested part.  And not tested by you, or marketing, or QA, tested by a range of different users.  Take note of the specificity of the wording of the "right" kind of question.  What works on one page of your site very well may not work on another page, or even on the same page in a different context.  These are all things you need to think about and design around.  And Test.  And then Test some more.
[...] testing tends to defuse arguments and break impasses by moving the discussion away from the realm of what's right or wrong and into the realm of what works or doesn't work. [...] The point of testing is not to prove or disprove something.  It's to inform your judgement.  
Emphasis is mine.  Remember that everyone will have an opinion on what they think the "right" way to present something is.  Some people like dropdowns, some people hate them.  What matters is does the dropdown work where it's being used.
 Don't make me jump through hoops just because you don't want to write a little bit of code.
 I think the most prevalent place I see this is for searching, where the user is forced to select what type of search they want from a dropdown or radio list.  Don't make me pick, figure out what I'm searching for.  If you can't figure it out, search everything.
Just when you think you're done, a cat floats by with buttered toast strapped to its back.
I love this quote, the explanation for it is this:

When a cat is dropped, it always lands on its feet
and when toast is dropped, it always lands with the buttered side facing down.
I propose to strap buttered toast to the back of a cat; the two will hover, spinning, inches above the ground
With a giant buttered-cat array, a high speed monorail could easily link New York with Chicago
-John Frazee - The Journal of Irreproducible Results
The best way to learn how to make anything more usable is to watch people actually trying to use it.
Seems self evident.  How many of us actually do it?  That is why user testing is stressed so much in the book, and in my summary.  If you don't watch the people using your site, you don't know how they are using it.
One note I found very useful on accessibility:
with CSS you can put your content in sequential order in the source file - which is how a screen reader user will hear it -  and still position things where you want them on the page.
If you want your site to be accessible, don't forget to include users that are going to use screen readers, high contrast color schemes, etc. in your group of testers.

That's it, I hope you enjoyed the review, and I hope you go read the full book, it is definitely worth the time investment.  It is a reasonably short book, and translates pretty well onto the kindle, though you might have trouble reading text on some of the images.

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