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RE: [agile-usability] RE: norman

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  • Larry Constantine
    ... Activity theory driven design is not user driven, it is user adaptive. It assumes users will adapt to technology, regardless how bad it might be. In this
    Message 1 of 21 , Oct 31, 2005
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      Michael Andrews wrote:
      ----------
      Activity theory driven design is not user driven, it is user adaptive. It
      assumes users will adapt to technology, regardless how bad it might be. In
      this respect, it shares with scenario and usage centered approaches a
      contempt for users, expecting them to conform to how they *should* behave
      toward technology, instead of how they actually do, and how they can
      comfortably adapt.
      ----------

      With regards to usage-centered design, of which I was the co-developer, this
      is absolutely, unequivocally, and totally wrong. Nothing I have written or
      said has ever suggested that users should conform to the technology. Quite
      the contrary, our approach is to try for the closest possible fit to what
      users actually do and how they do it and to support users with the best
      possible tools to suit their needs and intentions.

      If I sound offended, it is because I am. I have made a career of designing
      systems that better adapt to users and to teaching others how to do the
      same. Whether there is any truth to what you say about scenario-driven or
      activity-centered design is another issue, but with regards to
      usage-centered design it is complete and utter garbage.

      --Larry Constantine, IDSA
    • Jon Kern
      aww... come on people, don t be getting your shorts in a bunch ... Microsoft takes the low road when it comes to demonstrating apparently commercially
      Message 2 of 21 , Nov 1, 2005
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        aww... come on people, don't be getting your shorts in a bunch <g>...

        Microsoft takes the low road when it comes to demonstrating apparently commercially successful software applications that have horrid user interfaces that expose technology and, IMHO, show contempt for users. Despite their best HCI design efforts from their research teams, I might add. Try out the Word Save dialog as exposed here.
        -- jon
        
        


        Larry Constantine said the following on 10/31/2005 2:33 PM:
        Michael Andrews wrote:
        ----------
        Activity theory driven design is not user driven, it is user adaptive.  It
        assumes users will adapt to technology, regardless how bad it might be.  In
        this respect, it shares with scenario and usage centered approaches a
        contempt for users, expecting them to conform to how they *should* behave
        toward technology, instead of how they actually do, and how they can
        comfortably adapt.
        ----------

        With regards to usage-centered design, of which I was the co-developer, this
        is absolutely, unequivocally, and totally wrong. Nothing I have written or
        said has ever suggested that users should conform to the technology. Quite
        the contrary, our approach is to try for the closest possible fit to what
        users actually do and how they do it and to support users with the best
        possible tools to suit their needs and intentions.

        If I sound offended, it is because I am. I have made a career of designing
        systems that better adapt to users and to teaching others how to do the
        same. Whether there is any truth to what you say about scenario-driven or
        activity-centered design is another issue, but with regards to
        usage-centered design it is complete and utter garbage.

        --Larry Constantine, IDSA


      • Jade Ohlhauser
        You have some good points, but I think you re being too harsh on poor Microsoft. Have you used OneNote? It s a great application and finally someone has
        Message 3 of 21 , Nov 1, 2005
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          You have some good points, but I think you're being too harsh on poor Microsoft. Have you used OneNote? It's a great application and finally someone has executed the idea of not having a save dialog at all in a major, useful application.
           
          I too am boggled by the inclusion of favorites and history in the Office save dialog, but as is often the case with UI criticism, you seem to be focusing solely on the bad here. There are definite missteps, but saying the UI is horrid? Word is one application that I've found most people seem to do OK with, and in the grand scheme of computer use, that's saying a lot. Despite the confusing flaws so apparent to us, millions of people manage to overcome the obstacles in Word every day. And I have respect and pity for Microsoft UI people not because of that accomplishment, but because of the legacy burden that unprecedented install base presents to making changes and the wide range of tasks it means trying to solve.
           
          I've personally encountered this sort of dilemma with our product. We make a questionable design choice, then a version or two later after all the threatening email and painful user studies we've come up with a better way. But just the act of changing the bad functionality may be worse. And somehow trying to support both ways may be yet even worse. Damned if you do...
           
          Anyway, so I don't come off sounding like a Microsoft apologist, let me finish with a stab at what's next: I've been using Internet Explorer 7 betas for testing and the way they're (finally) doing tabbed browsing is just wrong. Please just copy Firefox, Microsoft, it's better and it's what people expect you to do anyway.
           
          Jade Ohlhauser
          Product Manager
          RPM Software                                 
          www.rpmsoftware.com 403-265-6727 x704
           


          From: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com [mailto:agile-usability@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Jon Kern
          Sent: Tuesday, November 01, 2005 5:55 AM
          To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: Re: [agile-usability] RE: norman

          aww... come on people, don't be getting your shorts in a bunch <g>...

          Microsoft takes the low road when it comes to demonstrating apparently commercially successful software applications that have horrid user interfaces that expose technology and, IMHO, show contempt for users. Despite their best HCI design efforts from their research teams, I might add. Try out the Word Save dialog as exposed here.
          -- jon
          
          


          Larry Constantine said the following on 10/31/2005 2:33 PM:
          Michael Andrews wrote:
          ----------
          Activity theory driven design is not user driven, it is user adaptive.  It
          assumes users will adapt to technology, regardless how bad it might be.  In
          this respect, it shares with scenario and usage centered approaches a
          contempt for users, expecting them to conform to how they *should* behave
          toward technology, instead of how they actually do, and how they can
          comfortably adapt.
          ----------

          With regards to usage-centered design, of which I was the co-developer, this
          is absolutely, unequivocally, and totally wrong. Nothing I have written or
          said has ever suggested that users should conform to the technology. Quite
          the contrary, our approach is to try for the closest possible fit to what
          users actually do and how they do it and to support users with the best
          possible tools to suit their needs and intentions.

          If I sound offended, it is because I am. I have made a career of designing
          systems that better adapt to users and to teaching others how to do the
          same. Whether there is any truth to what you say about scenario-driven or
          activity-centered design is another issue, but with regards to
          usage-centered design it is complete and utter garbage.

          --Larry Constantine, IDSA


        • Ash Donaldson
          ... In much the same way, people overcome the extreme difficulty of learning to become a pilot, play the piano, or setting up their new, unusable stereo
          Message 4 of 21 , Nov 1, 2005
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            Re: [agile-usability] RE: norman On 2/11/05 2:12 AM, "Jade Ohlhauser" <jade@...> wrote:
            You have some good points, but I think you're being too harsh on poor Microsoft. Have you used OneNote? It's a great application and finally someone has executed the idea of not having a save dialog at all in a major, useful application.

            I too am boggled by the inclusion of favorites and history in the Office save dialog, but as is often the case with UI criticism, you seem to be focusing solely on the bad here. There are definite missteps, but saying the UI is horrid? Word is one application that I've found most people seem to do OK with, and in the grand scheme of computer use, that's saying a lot. Despite the confusing flaws so apparent to us, millions of people manage to overcome the obstacles in Word every day. And I have respect and pity for Microsoft UI people not because of that accomplishment, but because of the legacy burden that unprecedented install base presents to making changes and the wide range of tasks it means trying to solve.

            In much the same way, people overcome the extreme difficulty of learning to become a pilot, play the piano, or setting up their new, unusable stereo system.  This is where the key word of “motivation” comes into play.  Something doesn’t have to be usable, engaging, or even good for millions of people to use it.  

            I’ve recently moved from Mac OSX Mail to Microsoft’s Entourage because the people I work with have set up MS Exchange.  Mail is a simple, elegant application that does all I need in an email client.  Entourage is filled with features that for me remain unused, it doesn’t integrate well with the OS (I can’t even search through my emails) and is giving me no end of problems.  I’m only using Entourage because my office is on Exchange – not because I want to.

            In much the same way as people got stuck with Lotus Notes, the typical business these days is stuck with MS Office and MS Word.  Word is one of the most frustrating applications I’ve used (especially when trying to place graphics), but it’s what most of my clients demand.
          • Jon Kern
            but just think if everyone built in a feature-usage-monitor that could let your server know about usage every month or so... then you might see that only 20%
            Message 5 of 21 , Nov 1, 2005
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              but just think if everyone built in a "feature-usage-monitor" that could let your server know about usage every month or so...

              then you might see that only 20% of an apps features are used by 90% of the people.

              i am not sure that just because people adapt to a bad design means jack sh!t about the validity of that design.

              and yes, the load of crap that companies lug around as "legacy" is reality -- albeit is it a necessary one out of design or is it out of ignorance? even here, though, i submit a valuable addition to something like Word would be the magic customizer slider (that i have invented in my head for years when i was building a very complex, somewhat horrid at times UI in the incarnation of TogetherSoft's ControlCenter UML modeling tool) that would allow features to go from novice to power user in terms of: visibility and depth and degree of user control.

              For example, Word could be dramatically simplified by a very small number of features being available by default.

              just because "you can build it" doesn't mean you should.

              for a completely menuless application, give this photo organizer a spin (currently requires a unique account so it can create a URI for your photo tags -- uniqueness coming from the account): http://storymill.com/tidepool/
              -- jon
              
              


              Ash Donaldson said the following on 11/1/2005 6:24 PM:
              Re: [agile-usability] RE: norman On 2/11/05 2:12 AM, "Jade Ohlhauser" <jade@...> wrote:
              You have some good points, but I think you're being too harsh on poor Microsoft. Have you used OneNote? It's a great application and finally someone has executed the idea of not having a save dialog at all in a major, useful application.

              I too am boggled by the inclusion of favorites and history in the Office save dialog, but as is often the case with UI criticism, you seem to be focusing solely on the bad here. There are definite missteps, but saying the UI is horrid? Word is one application that I've found most people seem to do OK with, and in the grand scheme of computer use, that's saying a lot. Despite the confusing flaws so apparent to us, millions of people manage to overcome the obstacles in Word every day. And I have respect and pity for Microsoft UI people not because of that accomplishment, but because of the legacy burden that unprecedented install base presents to making changes and the wide range of tasks it means trying to solve.

              In much the same way, people overcome the extreme difficulty of learning to become a pilot, play the piano, or setting up their new, unusable stereo system.  This is where the key word of “motivation” comes into play.  Something doesn’t have to be usable, engaging, or even good for millions of people to use it.  

              I’ve recently moved from Mac OSX Mail to Microsoft’s Entourage because the people I work with have set up MS Exchange.  Mail is a simple, elegant application that does all I need in an email client.  Entourage is filled with features that for me remain unused, it doesn’t integrate well with the OS (I can’t even search through my emails) and is giving me no end of problems.  I’m only using Entourage because my office is on Exchange – not because I want to.

              In much the same way as people got stuck with Lotus Notes, the typical business these days is stuck with MS Office and MS Word.  Word is one of the most frustrating applications I’ve used (especially when trying to place graphics), but it’s what most of my clients demand.
            • Desilets, Alain
              then you might see that only 20% of an apps features are used by 90% of the people. -- Alain: I haven t read that study, but according to Johnson 02, 45% of
              Message 6 of 21 , Nov 2, 2005
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                Message
                then you might see that only 20% of an apps features are used by 90% of the people. 
                 
                -- Alain:
                I haven't read that study, but according to Johnson'02, 45% of features were never used, and 19% were rarely used (for a total of 64%). This was a study of rather waterfallish projects, as opposed to agile ones. I don't know what those number would look like for an agile project.
                ---- 

                and yes, the load of crap that companies lug around as "legacy" is reality -- albeit is it a necessary one out of design or is it out of ignorance? even here, though, i submit a valuable addition to something like Word would be the magic customizer slider (that i have invented in my head for years when i was building a very complex, somewhat horrid at times UI in the incarnation of TogetherSoft's ControlCenter UML modeling tool) that would allow features to go from novice to power user in terms of: visibility and depth and degree of user control. 
                 
                -- Alain:
                I have heard this idea many times, but I have never seen it implemented. I suspect there might be some pitfalls in terms of the system builder's ability to help and support the user. In other words, it could make it hard to write a good help system when different users employ completely different UIs.
                 
                I can see this working if you had say, 3 system-wide settings like beginner, intermediate and advanced. You definitely would not want people to be able to use say, beginner UI in one part of the system and expert UI in another part (do the words "feature interaction" raise the hair at the back of your neck?).
                -----
                 
                 
                For example, Word could be dramatically simplified by a very small number of features being available by default. 
                 
                -- Alain:
                Yes, "less is more" is the one thing where Alan Cooper seems to have gotten it right.
                ----
              • Larry Constantine
                ... a valuable addition to something like Word would be the magic customizer slider (that i have invented in my head for years when i was building a very
                Message 7 of 21 , Nov 2, 2005
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                  Jon Kern wrote:
                  ----------
                  a valuable addition to something like Word would be the magic customizer
                  slider (that i have invented in my head for years when i was building a very
                  complex, somewhat horrid at times UI in the incarnation of TogetherSoft's
                  ControlCenter UML modeling tool) that would allow features to go from novice
                  to power user in terms of: visibility and depth and degree of user control.
                  ----------

                  It's cute, been proposed many times by many people in one form or another,
                  but whether it's a slider or a series of radio button, it turns out to be a
                  bad idea.

                  (1) A user is not across the board novice, intermediate, or expert in
                  interaction style, but varies from one part of the UI to another. Typical
                  users are improving intermediates for the 10-20% of the UI they use fairly
                  regularly, expert for a few percent of over-learned features, and novices
                  for the remaining bulk. But that changes over time and even with respect to
                  what they are using the system for at a given moment.

                  (2) Having the entire configuration of the user interface change because the
                  user slips the slider up or down a notch is extremely disruptive user
                  experience.

                  (3) Most users do not actually know at what level they are operating or what
                  they should tell the system. Even making the choice on setup causes great
                  anxiety, as many users fear that if they set the level too low, they will be
                  prevented from doing things but if they set it too high they will be
                  overwhelmed. Interestingly, when allowed to choose between so-called short
                  menus (with reduced options and only basic features) and full menus, the
                  vast majority of users prefer long menus.

                  A far better approach is based on the progressive usage model (the ski-slope
                  model, as it is sometimes known) which supports continuous and incremental
                  in-context adaptation of the UI by users to fit evolving interaction style
                  and level of expertise. (Covered in our book and several papers.)

                  --Larry Constantine, IDSA
                • Jade Ohlhauser
                  Well said Larry. I agree having a single control that changes the UI or other sort of interface expertise modes is not a good idea. You re asking the user to
                  Message 8 of 21 , Nov 2, 2005
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                    Well said Larry.
                     
                    I agree having a single control that changes the UI or other sort of interface "expertise" modes is not a good idea. You're asking the user to make a decision without a lot of information on what the consequences and rewards are and what their own needs are. Also, it's a disruptive jump moving "up to the next level". It's not quite back to square one, but it's a real and/or perceived step backwards in the user's journey to application mastery. Finally, I think if there's something so bad about something that it needs to be removed from the UI for a so called "beginner" user, then it should probably be redesigned.
                     
                    Nice find with that photo app Jon, oh man is that bad. It's almost too painful to compare it to something like Picassa 2.
                     
                    And if I may slip in one more UI praise for Word that in my opinion makes up for a lot of bad, the red squiggly. I'm talking about underlining misspelled words right away instead of waiting for a spell check. Brilliant. Of course, they ended up taking the superficial element of the concept too far with the Smart Tags. Talk about missing the point.
                     
                    Jade Ohlhauser
                    Product Manager
                    RPM Software                                 
                    www.rpmsoftware.com 403-265-6727 x704
                     


                    From: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com [mailto:agile-usability@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Larry Constantine
                    Sent: Wednesday, November 02, 2005 8:02 AM
                    To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
                    Subject: [agile-usability] user expertise and progressive usage (was RE: norman)

                    Jon Kern wrote:
                    ----------
                    a valuable addition to something like Word would be the magic customizer
                    slider (that i have invented in my head for years when i was building a very
                    complex, somewhat horrid at times UI in the incarnation of TogetherSoft's
                    ControlCenter UML modeling tool) that would allow features to go from novice
                    to power user in terms of: visibility and depth and degree of user control.
                    ----------

                    It's cute, been proposed many times by many people in one form or another,
                    but whether it's a slider or a series of radio button, it turns out to be a
                    bad idea.

                    (1) A user is not across the board novice, intermediate, or expert in
                    interaction style, but varies from one part of the UI to another. Typical
                    users are improving intermediates for the 10-20% of the UI they use fairly
                    regularly, expert for a few percent of over-learned features, and novices
                    for the remaining bulk. But that changes over time and even with respect to
                    what they are using the system for at a given moment.

                    (2) Having the entire configuration of the user interface change because the
                    user slips the slider up or down a notch is extremely disruptive user
                    experience.

                    (3) Most users do not actually know at what level they are operating or what
                    they should tell the system. Even making the choice on setup causes great
                    anxiety, as many users fear that if they set the level too low, they will be
                    prevented from doing things but if they set it too high they will be
                    overwhelmed. Interestingly, when allowed to choose between so-called short
                    menus (with reduced options and only basic features) and full menus, the
                    vast majority of users prefer long menus.

                    A far better approach is based on the progressive usage model (the ski-slope
                    model, as it is sometimes known) which supports continuous and incremental
                    in-context adaptation of the UI by users to fit evolving interaction style
                    and level of expertise. (Covered in our book and several papers.)

                    --Larry Constantine, IDSA

                  • Jon Kern
                    if you read carefully, you ll see my idea was always based on a per-feature (or group) concept, so to speak. slider that would allow features to go from
                    Message 9 of 21 , Nov 3, 2005
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                      if you read carefully, you'll see my idea was always based on a per-feature (or group) concept, so to speak.
                         " slider that would allow features to go from novice to power user"
                      Not across the board, as I agree it would be bad UI.

                      The idea is that you can allow the user to peel back the wrapper and access more features at their pace. The system would magically track their level of comfort and expertise and frequency of use. All based on metadata recorded about the UI/features and usages...

                      One of the features we built for Together to control the UI was a role-based configuration. An analyst will need to have very different parts of the app available than, for example, a developer. An analyst doesn't need the code editor, debugger, and the like. Of course, it was available if it was really needed. It was just a way to control the default features that were visible and front-and-center, so to speak.

                      Of course, a better goal is to provide better UIs. But, it does become very challenging for big honkin' tools like Together or OptimalJ or even IDEs to accommodate varying levels of expertise as a new user goes from novice to power user.

                      What sorts of UI design rules of thumb apply for these types of highly complex apps?
                      -- jon
                      
                      


                      Larry Constantine said the following on 11/2/2005 10:01 AM:
                      Jon Kern wrote:
                      ----------
                      a valuable addition to something like Word would be the magic customizer
                      slider (that i have invented in my head for years when i was building a very
                      complex, somewhat horrid at times UI in the incarnation of TogetherSoft's
                      ControlCenter UML modeling tool) that would allow features to go from novice
                      to power user in terms of: visibility and depth and degree of user control.
                      ----------

                      It's cute, been proposed many times by many people in one form or another,
                      but whether it's a slider or a series of radio button, it turns out to be a
                      bad idea.

                      (1) A user is not across the board novice, intermediate, or expert in
                      interaction style, but varies from one part of the UI to another. Typical
                      users are improving intermediates for the 10-20% of the UI they use fairly
                      regularly, expert for a few percent of over-learned features, and novices
                      for the remaining bulk. But that changes over time and even with respect to
                      what they are using the system for at a given moment.

                      (2) Having the entire configuration of the user interface change because the
                      user slips the slider up or down a notch is extremely disruptive user
                      experience.

                      (3) Most users do not actually know at what level they are operating or what
                      they should tell the system. Even making the choice on setup causes great
                      anxiety, as many users fear that if they set the level too low, they will be
                      prevented from doing things but if they set it too high they will be
                      overwhelmed. Interestingly, when allowed to choose between so-called short
                      menus (with reduced options and only basic features) and full menus, the
                      vast majority of users prefer long menus.

                      A far better approach is based on the progressive usage model (the ski-slope
                      model, as it is sometimes known) which supports continuous and incremental
                      in-context adaptation of the UI by users to fit evolving interaction style
                      and level of expertise. (Covered in our book and several papers.)

                      --Larry Constantine, IDSA

                    • Jon Kern
                      Nice find with that photo app Jon, oh man is that bad. It s almost too painful to compare it to something like Picassa 2. btw: yes, it is a bit exploratory
                      Message 10 of 21 , Nov 3, 2005
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                        "Nice find with that photo app Jon, oh man is that bad. It's almost too painful to compare it to something like Picassa 2. "

                        btw: yes, it is a bit exploratory as far as the UI goes, i think. i bet it is going for a different audience and is purposely trying not to look like every other photo program on the planet (like Picasa). They wanted to make the ability to organize and tag photos through simple "who/what/where" info via drag-n-drop or simple type to get a list of tags or create tags. and to make it so your "Mom" can even share photos with friends.

                        it's actually easy to use and I don't mind not having a stupid "file" or "edit" or "help" menu. click one button to share one or more photos... click tags to sort: "Jonny" "Mountain" "Nepal" to narrow down to all pics of Jonny, then Jonny with Mountains, then Jonny + Mountains + in Nepal.

                        And praise for Word? That squiggly is what IDEs have been doing for a while: catching errors as you make them.

                        -- jon
                        
                        


                        Jade Ohlhauser said the following on 11/2/2005 1:12 PM:
                        Well said Larry.
                         
                        I agree having a single control that changes the UI or other sort of interface "expertise" modes is not a good idea. You're asking the user to make a decision without a lot of information on what the consequences and rewards are and what their own needs are. Also, it's a disruptive jump moving "up to the next level". It's not quite back to square one, but it's a real and/or perceived step backwards in the user's journey to application mastery. Finally, I think if there's something so bad about something that it needs to be removed from the UI for a so called "beginner" user, then it should probably be redesigned.
                         
                        Nice find with that photo app Jon, oh man is that bad. It's almost too painful to compare it to something like Picassa 2.
                         
                        And if I may slip in one more UI praise for Word that in my opinion makes up for a lot of bad, the red squiggly. I'm talking about underlining misspelled words right away instead of waiting for a spell check. Brilliant. Of course, they ended up taking the superficial element of the concept too far with the Smart Tags. Talk about missing the point.
                         
                        Jade Ohlhauser
                        Product Manager
                        RPM Software                                 
                        www.rpmsoftware.com 403-265-6727 x704
                         


                        <cut>

                      • Ron Jeffries
                        Hi Jon, ... Reading incredibly carefully, I see the word slider , not sliders , suggesting strongly that there is just one across the board slider. ... Oh
                        Message 11 of 21 , Nov 3, 2005
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                          Hi Jon,

                          On Thursday, November 3, 2005, at 5:06:30 AM, Jon Kern wrote:

                          > if you read carefully, you'll see my idea was always based on a per-feature (or group) concept,
                          > so to speak.
                          >    " slider that would allow features to go from novice to power user"
                          > Not across the board, as I agree it would be bad UI.

                          Reading incredibly carefully, I see the word "slider", not
                          "sliders", suggesting strongly that there is just one across the
                          board slider.

                          > The idea is that you can allow the user to peel back the wrapper
                          > and access more features at their pace. The system would magically
                          > track their level of comfort and expertise and frequency of use.
                          > All based on metadata recorded about the UI/features and usages...

                          Oh ... and I guess from this that you mean an internal slider, not a
                          visible one, where some all-knowing being is deciding how I'm doing
                          and exposing new features for me, not a slider that I the user can
                          adjust?

                          > One of the features we built for Together to control the UI was a
                          > role-based configuration. An analyst will need to have very
                          > different parts of the app available than, for example, a
                          > developer. An analyst doesn't need the code editor, debugger, and
                          > the like. Of course, it was available if it was really needed. It
                          > was just a way to control the default features that were visible
                          > and front-and-center, so to speak.

                          And was that good? Did actual users really like it? A situation
                          today that is like that is Visual Studio 2005, which holds all kinds
                          of things back in the Team Version that should in fact be available
                          to kids on the street in the Pick Up at Circuit City and Learn C# in
                          Your Free Time version.

                          VS 2005, to me, is trying to control how I work, based in part on my
                          pocketbook and in part on some Vision From Redmond about how I
                          should work, rather than letting me control how I work.

                          This isn't the same as your example but it's an example of how very
                          far awry incremental exposure can go.

                          > Of course, a better goal is to provide better UIs. But, it does
                          > become very challenging for big honkin' tools like Together or
                          > OptimalJ or even IDEs to accommodate varying levels of expertise
                          > as a new user goes from novice to power user.

                          Yes, it really does. I'm not at all sure that hiding things works
                          ... when I use another person's version of Office that isn't
                          configured like mine, I often look for things that I'm being
                          protected from because the program doesn't realize that a Word God
                          has just sat down at the keyboard. I suppose it should be reading
                          the Microsoft Customer RFID chip in my brain. Maybe next version.

                          > What sorts of UI design rules of thumb apply for these types of
                          > highly complex apps?

                          I, too, look forward to hearing this answer!

                          Ron Jeffries
                          www.XProgramming.com
                          Example isn't another way to teach, it is the only way to teach.
                          --Albert Einstein
                        • Desilets, Alain
                          And if I may slip in one more UI praise for Word that in my opinion makes up for a lot of bad, the red squiggly. I m talking about underlining misspelled words
                          Message 12 of 21 , Nov 3, 2005
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                            Message
                            And if I may slip in one more UI praise for Word that in my opinion makes up for a lot of bad, the red squiggly. I'm talking about underlining misspelled words right away instead of waiting for a spell check. Brilliant. Of course, they ended up taking the superficial element of the concept too far with the Smart Tags. Talk about missing the point. 
                             
                            -- Alain:
                            Yeah, I LOVE this kind of unobtrusive decorator. When used properly, they can provide a lot of additional information right away when it becomes relevant, but without interrupting the normal flow of work.
                             
                            The Eclipse IDE is great in that way. For example, as soon as I type a syntax mistake, the culprit token is underlined, plus a red stop sign and a light bulb appear in the margin. Clicking on the red stop sign shows the exact error message from the compiler, and clicking on the light bulb brings up a list of automatic fixes for the error (ex: replace "okBitton with okButton").
                            ---- 
                             
                            Jade Ohlhauser
                            Product Manager
                            RPM Software                                 
                            www.rpmsoftware.com 403-265-6727 x704
                             


                            From: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com [mailto:agile-usability@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Larry Constantine
                            Sent: Wednesday, November 02, 2005 8:02 AM
                            To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
                            Subject: [agile-usability] user expertise and progressive usage (was RE: norman)

                            Jon Kern wrote:
                            ----------
                            a valuable addition to something like Word would be the magic customizer
                            slider (that i have invented in my head for years when i was building a very
                            complex, somewhat horrid at times UI in the incarnation of TogetherSoft's
                            ControlCenter UML modeling tool) that would allow features to go from novice
                            to power user in terms of: visibility and depth and degree of user control.
                            ----------

                            It's cute, been proposed many times by many people in one form or another,
                            but whether it's a slider or a series of radio button, it turns out to be a
                            bad idea.

                            (1) A user is not across the board novice, intermediate, or expert in
                            interaction style, but varies from one part of the UI to another. Typical
                            users are improving intermediates for the 10-20% of the UI they use fairly
                            regularly, expert for a few percent of over-learned features, and novices
                            for the remaining bulk. But that changes over time and even with respect to
                            what they are using the system for at a given moment.

                            (2) Having the entire configuration of the user interface change because the
                            user slips the slider up or down a notch is extremely disruptive user
                            experience.

                            (3) Most users do not actually know at what level they are operating or what
                            they should tell the system. Even making the choice on setup causes great
                            anxiety, as many users fear that if they set the level too low, they will be
                            prevented from doing things but if they set it too high they will be
                            overwhelmed. Interestingly, when allowed to choose between so-called short
                            menus (with reduced options and only basic features) and full menus, the
                            vast majority of users prefer long menus.

                            A far better approach is based on the progressive usage model (the ski-slope
                            model, as it is sometimes known) which supports continuous and incremental
                            in-context adaptation of the UI by users to fit evolving interaction style
                            and level of expertise. (Covered in our book and several papers.)

                            --Larry Constantine, IDSA

                          • Jon Kern
                            ... Ron Jeffries said the following on 11/3/2005 8:59 AM: Hi Jon, ... per-feature (or group) concept, ... user ... Reading incredibly carefully, I see the
                            Message 13 of 21 , Nov 3, 2005
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                              :=)

                              Ron Jeffries said the following on 11/3/2005 8:59 AM:
                              Hi Jon,

                              On Thursday, November 3, 2005, at 5:06:30 AM, Jon Kern wrote:

                              >  if you read carefully, you'll see my idea was always based on a per-feature (or group) concept,
                              > so to speak.
                              >     " slider that would allow features to go from novice to power user"
                              >  Not across the board, as I agree it would be bad UI.

                              Reading incredibly carefully, I see the word "slider", not
                              "sliders", suggesting strongly that there is just one across the
                              board slider.
                              Yeah, but I knew what I meant :=0
                              And, there could be the overarching "slider" based on measured brain wave activity with the skull cap hat shipped with the product.

                              > The idea is that you can allow the user to peel back the wrapper
                              > and access more features at their pace. The system would magically
                              > track their level of comfort and expertise and frequency of use.
                              > All based on metadata recorded about the UI/features and usages...

                              Oh ... and I guess from this that you mean an internal slider, not a
                              visible one, where some all-knowing being is deciding how I'm doing
                              and exposing new features for me, not a slider that I the user can
                              adjust?
                              Hey, I never committed to building this, it was just a fleeting idea that has wafted around the rather shallow UI design center in my brain...

                              I mentioned this idea more as a manifestation of the reality that is presented by a complex (possibly overly so) tool.

                              > One of the features we built for Together to control the UI was a
                              > role-based configuration. An analyst will need to have very
                              > different parts of the app available than, for example, a
                              > developer. An analyst doesn't need the code editor, debugger, and
                              > the like. Of course, it was available if it was really needed. It
                              > was just a way to control the default features that were visible
                              > and front-and-center, so to speak.

                              And was that good? Did actual users really like it? A situation
                              Well, I also did it because a major firm was willing to commit just over $1M in product purchases. So, at least they used it, maybe.

                              The beauty was, I could configure it externally without hard-coding. Therefore, it wasn't too challenging to roll it out due to our ability to "externally" specify product feature grouping (to sell different product feature mixes).

                              today that is like that is Visual Studio 2005, which holds all kinds
                              of things back in the Team Version that should in fact be available
                              to kids on the street in the Pick Up at Circuit City and Learn C# in
                              Your Free Time version.

                              VS 2005, to me, is trying to control how I work, based in part on my
                              pocketbook and in part on some Vision From Redmond about how I
                              should work, rather than letting me control how I work.
                              Sounds like a poor implementation of the idea...

                              There's the concept of misunderstanding how a user might need to use features.

                              There's a concept of features per product edition... get more if you pay more.

                              Then there's the magical "Intelli-Slider-per-Meaningful-Feature-Group" adaptive shelter, that doesn't prevent a user overriding feature availability in an easy manner.

                              This isn't the same as your example but it's an example of how very
                              far awry incremental exposure can go.

                              > Of course, a better goal is to provide better UIs. But, it does
                              > become very challenging for big honkin' tools like Together or
                              > OptimalJ or even IDEs to accommodate varying levels of expertise
                              > as a new user goes from novice to power user.

                              Yes, it really does. I'm not at all sure that hiding things works
                              I'm not sure either...
                              ... when I use another person's version of Office that isn't
                              configured like mine, I often look for things that I'm being
                              protected from because the program doesn't realize that a Word God
                              Yes... I have the same problem when working on a Word doc/desktop by someone who doesn't use styles or even the different "tags" that show tabs, spaces, paragraphs, etc.
                              has just sat down at the keyboard. I suppose it should be reading
                              the Microsoft Customer RFID chip in my brain. Maybe next version.
                              I'd go for that, as long as the chip also helped me go through airports more quickly ;=)

                              > What sorts of UI design rules of thumb apply for these types of
                              > highly complex apps?

                              I, too, look forward to hearing this answer!

                              Ron Jeffries
                              www.XProgramming.com
                              Example isn't another way to teach, it is the only way to teach.
                                --Albert Einstein
                            • Jon Kern
                              okay... I had something to do with this UI. i went phishing for some initial reactions. we deliberately threw out all manner of UI
                              Message 14 of 21 , Nov 3, 2005
                              • 0 Attachment
                                <disclaimer>
                                okay... I had something to do with this UI. i went phishing for some initial reactions.
                                </disclaimer>

                                we deliberately threw out all manner of UI convention and tried to start from scratch with a "zero mass" design... it was based on seeing our "moms" (really) struggling horribly with all manner of "standard" photo apps.

                                just like the aeron chair was met with distaste at first, it grew on people after they began to really use it. you can get a feel for the software by looking at the 10-minute "walkabout" viewlet. But even better to try it out.

                                if you give tidepool a spin, try to organize a few hundred images, create some stories, and share photos with friends, maybe you would have a different opinion from your first gut reaction.
                                -- jon
                                
                                


                                Jon Kern said the following on 11/3/2005 8:24 AM:
                                "Nice find with that photo app Jon, oh man is that bad. It's almost too painful to compare it to something like Picassa 2. "

                                btw: yes, it is a bit exploratory as far as the UI goes, i think. i bet it is going for a different audience and is purposely trying not to look like every other photo program on the planet (like Picasa). They wanted to make the ability to organize and tag photos through simple "who/what/where" info via drag-n-drop or simple type to get a list of tags or create tags. and to make it so your "Mom" can even share photos with friends.

                                it's actually easy to use and I don't mind not having a stupid "file" or "edit" or "help" menu. click one button to share one or more photos... click tags to sort: "Jonny" "Mountain" "Nepal" to narrow down to all pics of Jonny, then Jonny with Mountains, then Jonny + Mountains + in Nepal.

                                And praise for Word? That squiggly is what IDEs have been doing for a while: catching errors as you make them.

                                -- jon
                                
                                  


                                Jade Ohlhauser said the following on 11/2/2005 1:12 PM:
                                Well said Larry.
                                 
                                I agree having a single control that changes the UI or other sort of interface "expertise" modes is not a good idea. You're asking the user to make a decision without a lot of information on what the consequences and rewards are and what their own needs are. Also, it's a disruptive jump moving "up to the next level". It's not quite back to square one, but it's a real and/or perceived step backwards in the user's journey to application mastery. Finally, I think if there's something so bad about something that it needs to be removed from the UI for a so called "beginner" user, then it should probably be redesigned.
                                 
                                Nice find with that photo app Jon, oh man is that bad. It's almost too painful to compare it to something like Picassa 2.
                                 
                                And if I may slip in one more UI praise for Word that in my opinion makes up for a lot of bad, the red squiggly. I'm talking about underlining misspelled words right away instead of waiting for a spell check. Brilliant. Of course, they ended up taking the superficial element of the concept too far with the Smart Tags. Talk about missing the point.
                                 
                                Jade Ohlhauser
                                Product Manager
                                RPM Software                                 
                                www.rpmsoftware.com 403-265-6727 x704
                                 


                                <cut>

                              • Jade Ohlhauser
                                Well if you re fishing then I guess you caught me :) I can say for first reaction the faux wood backgrounds and gradients around the controls really turned me
                                Message 15 of 21 , Nov 3, 2005
                                • 0 Attachment
                                  Well if you're fishing then I guess you caught me :)
                                   
                                  I can say for first reaction the faux wood backgrounds and gradients around the controls really turned me off as did the non-standard widget look and file browse UI in Windows. You would think being a self-proclaimed usability guy I'd try to put my preferences aside and wait for the test data.
                                   
                                  Jade Ohlhauser
                                  Product Manager
                                  RPM Software                                 
                                  www.rpmsoftware.com 403-265-6727 x704
                                   


                                  From: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com [mailto:agile-usability@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Jon Kern
                                  Sent: Thursday, November 03, 2005 9:13 AM
                                  To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
                                  Subject: Re: [agile-usability] user expertise and progressive usage (was RE: norman)

                                  <disclaimer>
                                  okay... I had something to do with this UI. i went phishing for some initial reactions.
                                  </disclaimer>

                                  we deliberately threw out all manner of UI convention and tried to start from scratch with a "zero mass" design... it was based on seeing our "moms" (really) struggling horribly with all manner of "standard" photo apps.

                                  just like the aeron chair was met with distaste at first, it grew on people after they began to really use it. you can get a feel for the software by looking at the 10-minute "walkabout" viewlet. But even better to try it out.

                                  if you give tidepool a spin, try to organize a few hundred images, create some stories, and share photos with friends, maybe you would have a different opinion from your first gut reaction.
                                  -- jon
                                  
                                  


                                  Jon Kern said the following on 11/3/2005 8:24 AM:
                                  "Nice find with that photo app Jon, oh man is that bad. It's almost too painful to compare it to something like Picassa 2. "

                                  btw: yes, it is a bit exploratory as far as the UI goes, i think. i bet it is going for a different audience and is purposely trying not to look like every other photo program on the planet (like Picasa). They wanted to make the ability to organize and tag photos through simple "who/what/where" info via drag-n-drop or simple type to get a list of tags or create tags. and to make it so your "Mom" can even share photos with friends.

                                  it's actually easy to use and I don't mind not having a stupid "file" or "edit" or "help" menu. click one button to share one or more photos... click tags to sort: "Jonny" "Mountain" "Nepal" to narrow down to all pics of Jonny, then Jonny with Mountains, then Jonny + Mountains + in Nepal.

                                  And praise for Word? That squiggly is what IDEs have been doing for a while: catching errors as you make them.

                                  -- jon
                                  
                                    


                                  Jade Ohlhauser said the following on 11/2/2005 1:12 PM:
                                  Well said Larry.
                                   
                                  I agree having a single control that changes the UI or other sort of interface "expertise" modes is not a good idea. You're asking the user to make a decision without a lot of information on what the consequences and rewards are and what their own needs are. Also, it's a disruptive jump moving "up to the next level". It's not quite back to square one, but it's a real and/or perceived step backwards in the user's journey to application mastery. Finally, I think if there's something so bad about something that it needs to be removed from the UI for a so called "beginner" user, then it should probably be redesigned.
                                   
                                  Nice find with that photo app Jon, oh man is that bad. It's almost too painful to compare it to something like Picassa 2.
                                   
                                  And if I may slip in one more UI praise for Word that in my opinion makes up for a lot of bad, the red squiggly. I'm talking about underlining misspelled words right away instead of waiting for a spell check. Brilliant. Of course, they ended up taking the superficial element of the concept too far with the Smart Tags. Talk about missing the point.
                                   
                                  Jade Ohlhauser
                                  Product Manager
                                  RPM Software                                 
                                  www.rpmsoftware.com 403-265-6727 x704
                                   


                                  <cut>

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