It drives me nuts when software menus aren’t logically ordered. Sure no one is perfect and I’m guilty of some super bonehead moves, but it sure feels like some of the design decisions made in some products intend to obfuscate control and thwart user desires.
I’m guessing the fear is that if Bridge isn’t on by default and the preference for controlling is too obvious, then no one will use it. Maybe it would be wise to consider the negative vibes this generates towards the app…
I love standing a problem / argument on its head. Leave it to a blind guy to take a different tack that helps us see a universal humanist approach to accessibility. I’m still not sure how I feel about mandates (I worry about getting bogged down in the web’s infancy) or specific tech like screen readers, but I do think we’re getting closer to having the technology pieces that will help us build a richer and more accessible web (I’m thinking of the ocr stuff that Evernote does, the amazing video /image recognition research, the speech to text capabilites that Premiere has and the emergence of XMP).
There’s a damn good article on pcworld (yes I’m aware of how dubious that sounds) that articulates some of my ideals for software design and reservations about usability testing.
In the past I’ve described the issue as the “users as aliens” effect. I realize this is a bit of an esoteric metaphor, but its intended to relate that our deepest insights into software design / engineering come from within. My best insights come because I, like other users, am a human being. I am more alike other people than I am different and I therefore have insights into the expectations, frustrations and joys we all experience when using technology (any tool really).
Now the absolute best form of usability testing is dog-fooding. Become an actual user and you’ll quickly experience the pain points and frustrations of repeated normal use and gain deep insights into what users want. As a bonus you’ll be much more apt to understand and recognize issues reported by users. This is far more valuable than setting up arbitrary tests in a lab, watching users be “facilitated” through an activity and asking them a few questions. In fact, in this all too common scenario, as the pcworld article notes, you end up with a lot of false positives–wasted time and wasted money.
I’m a huge advocate of simplicity, but that isn’t the same as “idiot proofing”. I’m reminded of observations I’ve made of some of my less tech savvy friends and family of late. In such situations I can watch them in their natural state, struggling to solve a problem with software. More often than not they are foiled by the rather rudimentary user interfaces and arbitrary rules the software imposes on them. They are making sophisticated assumptions about how things should work based on their experience in the physical world and the problem is the software can’t handle it and limits their behavior for seemingly no reason.
There’s a huge distinction here–people are actually too smart for the software they’re using. That’s a radical departure from the view that people are idiots who must be protected from themselves (reminds me of the age old social contract theorist–Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau–debate). Its a great reminder that we rush to believe people are “idiots” who need to be protected from themselves. Sure they are sometimes intimidated and overwhelmed at first, but aren’t we all when doing even mundane activities for the first time. Wouldn’t it be better if we used our knowledge of being human rather than our deep understanding of operating systems and user interface conventions to create solutions for people (this is a challenge to myself as much as anyone else). Anyways, there’s plenty to chew on. Go read the article and feel free to come back and leave a challenge or affirmation.
I’m deeply appreciative when I use software that continually simplifies complex tasks. Lightroom is one such application and deserves huge props for much of its user experience. This software gets me. I feel like I’m communing with it on a much deeper, but more natural level. When I use it the visual feedback provides so much context that I can literally feel my way around, as if I’m holding something physical in my hand. Here’s a short example:
That’s pretty powerful stuff. Now if only I could get the same experience when using a development IDE–I’m talking to you Eclipse; you big, nasty brute with a face only a mother nerd could love.