Thursday, April 07, 2005

Usability: Users Are Stupid, But Don't Treat Them So

Yet another example of proof that usersdevelopers are quite stupid.

If you introduce a new feature (word, term, idea) to your application that someone has never come across before, you'd better damned well forcibly explain it before you let users touch it.

With my drag and drop form input on GetFridged, I've had people trying all sorts of interesting things, and people ignore the "hint" button.

  • Users don't know what to add, initially.
  • When they do get it, they try to add anything, because it's a magic box to them.
I even had one friend tell me about how she tried to add an item to her shopping list by dragging a photo from her desktop into it.

It made me giggle, but its not their fault. I gave them a magic anything box, so they are trying to make it do magic, not just cheap card tricks. Infact, it's a new and unthought of thing that I would never have thought to try.

Thoughts for improvement on the magic anything box:
  • Make it so you can drop desktop links into it, and javascript works out it's a local file - if so, the magic anythingbox transforms, on the fly, to a file upload box. Users don't know what's hit them, or even notice.
  • Dropping an image should create a thumbnail of the image, with "preview" across it and a path box below.
  • I need Google maps style yellow popups to explain it on mouseover, with a "never show this again checkbox done by default".
  • The magic anything box must be suggestive of it's drag and drop functionality.
Go ahead and implement a magic box, then subject real people to it, see what happens. I'd love to hear the fun that ensues!

A cool other kind of magic box: the speedreader. People read by recognising wordshapes rather than individual letters, so we think in pictures. This is like flashcards, and it helps the user keep one locus of attention happening. Try it out on your neighbours today, and see if you can't find some usability problems and bonuses with it.

Initially, I expected a "play" button to exist. What did you expect from it?
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