486RE: [agile-usability] Could UI Engineering have lead to Wiki?
- 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
Gouvernement du Canada | Government of Canada
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