Linked by Nicholas Blachford on Wed 11th Aug 2004 07:53 UTC
Editorial Computers are complex systems but it's a mistake to assume they need to be complex to use. However, usability is not as easy as it may first seem. It is a different discipline from software development lacking the strict logic or having a "right way". There are only differing requirements and differing collections of guidelines. Making things easy is difficult.
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Re: The myth of the power user
by logicnazi on Wed 11th Aug 2004 22:28 UTC

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A "power user" may use features a "normal" user doesnt, but that doesnt mean anything from a design point of view.
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This has been a constant refrain from many developers but I simply don't think it is consistant with the rest of your positions. After you make this claim you go ahead and insist that a user interface should be designed in a way guaranteed to screw over a domain-expert (I really liked the post suggesting this term rather than power user...much better description).

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rarely used features should be in menus and submenus only, there is no reason for them to be on toolbars.
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config panels should be *simple*. if the defaults are sane, then the user will only go hunting for a preference every once in awhile, so options need to be easy to find without all kinds of crud that only five people in the world will ever user. a great example of this is firefox. Tools->Options gives you a very clean and well orginized config panel that does *not* implement everything from about:config.
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The point isn't that complicated. If you design your system to only present the common options then the advanced options will be difficult to access. This principle will also guarantee things like error messages and primary help/information screens are sparse on uncommonly used technical information. Domain experts would have to use tons of more motions (going through the advanced menu or similar) to get the same work done.

Someone will suggest we can fix this problem by options for domain-experts. However, a UI which you need to go around and set 100s if not 1000s of settings to use is hardly a good interface. The mistake here is too assume that the domain-experts don't want things to work the way they like the first time and don't care about efficency in their operations. Quite simply either the first level of interface (say the options out of the file, edit etc.. menu which show up) presents a huge wealth of complicated options or it doesn't. One user prefers one style and the other prefers the other.

Perhaps you will suggest that a few global options could switch between the domain-expert and the non-domain expert. However, I hardly see how this would work. Differnt design choices are necesscitated when giving the user a few simple options or many complex options (to give a highly simplified example one wouldn't use a pull down list for 100s of options...when one wants thousands of options (picked at once not through sub menus) you better use keyboard input).

Any reasonable attempt to make a domain-expert mode and a non domain-expert mode is going to *really* produce two seperate UIs. One simply can't hope to maintain consistancy in interface across such a fundamental differnt way of interacting with the computer. It would end up something like having a command line and a GUI way to do things (by the way I really like this double development model and think it needs to be preserved into the gnome days even if CLI isn't the domain expert alternative).

Perhaps this position would be less contentious if we talked about it in terms of graphics programs. Clearly some graphics users want thousands of options immediatly availible and you wouldn't want to give microsoft paint this interface or the other program microsoft paints interface. Now of course the domain-experts in graphics are differnt than those in operating systems but if you believe they exist in graphics why not in operating systems.


(On second thought domain-experts might not be that much better a term. It still implies a difference in skill/knowledge not a difference in asthetics)