[Vit-discuss] Other usability stuff.

Hugh Sasse Staff Elec Eng hgs at dmu.ac.uk
Mon Feb 21 10:11:31 EST 2005

In case this helps people, I've found reading Donald A Norman's book
"The Design of Everyday things" which is the same book as "The
Psychology of Everyday Things" useful in understanding usability
problems.  While he doesn't really give a list of points in one
place in the book, there are common themes throughout it which would
apply to making a website helpful.  For example. the idea that the
difficulties can broadly be broken down into "gulf of execution" --
how do I get from "I want this to happen" to making it happen, and
"gulf of evaluation" -- the sytem has done something, which outputs show
me this and how do I interpret those outputs?  Also putting
knowledge into the world so that you can look at something and see
how to use it, or keeping it in your head, which may be quicker once
learnt. Also making the design model accord with the mental model
the user will build given the interface.

I also found "About Face" by Alan Cooper, which is now About Face 2
now, I think, and the [IMHO ghastly titled :-)] "The Inmates are
Running the Asylum" which covers much of the same ground, but is
more concise, and cheaper.


Insights from these:  people hate being made to feel stupid, so
design error processes so as not to cause that feeling. Get the
computer to do all it can: this often doesn't happen -- for example
one can only find documents by name or date or contents, not what
one was also working on at about the same time.  Computer Scientists
like trees, but they are not natural for most users to navigate.
[Probably not a useful insight for a progamming website :-)]  Make
as much reversible as possible, so when the user fouls up they can
go back: "Delete?"; "yes"; "Are you sure?"; Of course - "Yes" -- Oh,

People may get different stuff from this, such as his use of


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