Let’s start with some resources.

Last time, I invited everyone to start “noticing” how “usable” things are around them. Our first step had to do with telephones. Before we look at other areas around us, I thought it might be helpful to get some background on usability.

If you look at our Book Club list on this site, you will see some very good resources on Usability

While I highly recommend these, you can get a very good quick understanding of usability from these postings by Joel Spolsky (that he then converted into his book). At the end of each chapter, you will find a link to the next chapter. We will be using his axioms when we get together and talk about usability.

  • User Interface Design for Programmers, chapter 1

I do not think I will be giving anything away when I tell you that Joel’s first axiom is

A user interface is well-designed when the program behaves exactly how the user thought it would.

I will let you read the article, but this is the best one to remember. As a “consumer” it is easy to spot, but as a “producer” we may not think about it enough.

This is the problem with things that are supposed to be “obvious”. When I taught Kindergarten we had a book that was called: “It’s easy, if you know it”. Of course the point is, most things are not easy, even if people say they are. You have to know them for them to be easy. Which means you have to make them easy because things don’t come easy by themselves.

The same is true of most everything. Quick:

  • Get into a rental car, its raining outside. Where is the control for the windshield wipers?
  • You are at the grocery store. Which way does your credit card go into the machine?
  • When I press the button that says print, will it just start printing, or will I get to choose the printer I want to use? Which should it be?

These are all usability questions, and we know whether the person who designed the system make it so that it behaved just the way we expected the system to work.

One last example, here’s Joel Spolsky’s experience with a box with software in it. See what you think.

Have a great weekend.