forUse: The Electronic Newsletter of Usage-Centered Design
#3 | April 2000
= = = = =
Do your colleagues a favor; forward this issue to them. They can
1. Search Boxes May be Bad for Your Users
It's one of the great conundrums in all fields of design, but sometimes giving users what they want is not in their best interests. This matter is one of those that distinguishes usage-centered design from user-centered design and participatory design. The expressed wishes and preferences of users are considered central to a user-centered perspective. By contrast, usage-centered and performance-centered design de-emphasize what users want and concentrate on giving users what they need to perform their tasks efficiently and effectively.
A visitor to the forUse.com site recently sent us feedback about his difficulty finding the search box. His frustration arose from two sources. First, we put a link to the search function on the site index page. Second, our visitor steadfastly refused to click through on the "Site Index" link. Both his refusal and his frustration were perfectly reasonable, so he wondered why had "hidden" the search function.
Research and usability testing has shown that, no matter how sophisticated your search engine might be, users cut their chances of success if they use it. In many, though certainly not all, cases, the user is better off if they try other means of finding what they seek before turning to searching a site. There are many reasons for the frequent failure of site searches, most of them having to do with the inability of ordinary people to formulate effective queries. For many kinds of sites, the designer's objective should be to make the search box available--but not too available.
For more discussion on this design dilemma and its various resolutions, see our Application Note on searching <http://foruse.com/articles/searching.htm> on the Web. For another insightful commentary on the issue of user performance versus preference, check out <http://webword.com/moving/preference.html> .
2. Usage-Centered Design Gaining Recognition
At the recent Software Development Conference in San Jose, our colleagues from Artemis Alliance <http://www.artemisalliance.com/> told us about a trend they have noted of late. Artemis is a development group doing usage-centered design with essential use cases. In the past, Artemis often had to persuade clients of the value of this approach, but now they find that clients are coming to them requesting it.
Interest also continues to grow among professionals. Our tutorial and classes at the conference, were packed with developers eager to learn more about applying essential use cases and usage-centered design to software and Web-based applications.
To finish things off, Software Development Magazine gave the coveted Jolt Award for Product Excellence to our book, Software for Use, marking it as the best book of 1999. The fact that it won out over a book on the trendy topic of "extreme programming" was particularly gratifying and a sign that, even in today's world of crunch-mode development, quality achieved through systematic design can prevail. If you still haven't gotten your copy, you can order it with a simple click here Software for Use.
3. Learning Usage-Centered Design
Besides reading the book, you can get some first-hand instruction and practice in usage-centered design at upcoming seminars. Our public seminar in February went so well that we've already had requests to do it again.
AUSTRALIA: 3-4 May 2000, a two-day accelerated introduction will be offered at the Hotel Mercure in Railway Square in the heart of Sydney..
U.S.: 26-30 June, full-week intensive training in Portsmouth, NH. (Our last class loved not only the course, but also the hotel, the food, and the city!) Get the details, including early registration discounts, at <http://foruse.com/seminars/>.
= = =
To unsubscribe, send email with the word "unsubscribe" (no quotes) in the subject and message to: <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>