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486RE: [agile-usability] Could UI Engineering have lead to Wiki?

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  • Desilets, Alain
    Sep 1, 2004
      -- [Phlip]
      Humans, collaborating to write a Web site, most
      frequently want to upload simple paragraphs of text,
      containing a few markup codes and links to other pages
      in the same site.

      The least simple solution gives all the users
      expensive "WYSIWYG" editors and complex upload
      protocols. The most simple solution gives each Web
      page an "EditPage" button. When you click it, you get
      a page containing the previous page's content area
      rendered as a big edit field. The content area
      contains not HTML source but a tiny breezy markup

      That's the simplest solution from an implementation point of view, but it's
      not the most usable one. Non-technical users HATE markup languages, even
      simple ones like wiki-markup (although my experience with grade 4 kids shows
      that they can learn it quickly). A more usable solution would be a simple
      WYSIWYG editor that runs inside the browser and only enables basic things
      like: link creation, bolding, italicising, indenting, bullet-pointing etc. I
      believe that IS the optimal UI for writing web sites collaboratively, and
      that we will eventually be there in a few years from now.

      Unfortunately, the more usable solution is MUCH, MUCH, MUCH harder to
      implement (remember: only 10 pages of code for the simple solution!), yet it
      is *NOT* MUCH, MUCH, MUCH easier to use. So it makes sense to go for the
      implementationally simpler solution.

      I have read a lot of messages on this list in the past week that say you
      should not think about implementation complexity while doing the interaction
      design. I think that is dangerous, as pointed out by the Wiki example.

      I have also heard people say that you should first design the ideal UI from
      the point of view of the user, and then downgrade that to something which is
      implementationally simple yet satisfactory to the user. Some people have
      commented that such downgrading is hard to do without compromising
      usability, and I agree with that. I would add that the initial UI design may
      constrain your thinking about implementation and make it hard to come up
      with the right compromise between implementation simplicity and usability.

      To sum up the points, you shouldn't optimize usability without paying
      attention to implementation simplicity, anymore than you should optimize
      implementation simplicity without paying attention to usability.

      So we need a methodology that allows UI experts and developpers to
      communicate and collaboratively come up with a design that satisfies both
      aspects. That's one of the reasons why I like Contextual Design (in
      particular the agile version that Hugh presented at XPAU 2004). It allows
      the whole team (not just UI experts) to get immersed in customer data and
      collaboratively make rational decisions about what to implement.

      Alain Désilets, MASc
      Agent de recherches/Research Officer
      Institut de technologie de l'information du CNRC /
      NRC Institute for Information Technology

      Tél/Tel (613) 990-2813
      Facsimile/télécopieur: (613) 952-7151

      Conseil national de recherches Canada, M50, 1200 chemin Montréal,
      Ottawa (Ontario) K1A 0R6
      National Research Council Canada, M50, 1200 Montreal Rd., Ottawa, ON
      K1A 0R6

      Gouvernement du Canada | Government of Canada
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