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RE: [agile-usability] Interaction design rules of thumb - do they exist?

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  • Jeff Patton
    Hi Tobias, Hmm. let s see if I can come up with a couple of reasons where it might be a bad idea: The application as a whole has lots of places where numbers
    Message 1 of 42 , Jul 10, 2006

      Hi Tobias,


      Hmm… let’s see if I can come up with a couple of reasons where it might be a bad idea:


      The application as a whole has lots of places where numbers are entered – but in most cases the number of digits that can be entered isn’t limited – rather the user is given a validation message next to the field when a number too large is entered.  Limiting in this situation would be inconsistent.  Don’t know why that would be horrible – just inconsistent – makes the software look rough.  


      Another case: I find that when I’m transcribing a number I’m looking at data on some other sheet of paper and not the screen.  Let’s say I’m transcribing the number 12345678.  I start entering it in the field and as I’m typing my finger stutters on the 2 such that I enter 122345678 – but since the software has limited me when I get to the 8 it just beeps at me.  Or, even worse, the software moves me to the next field where I enter 8 into it.  Eventually I look up and wonder – “hey – what’s going on here?”  I hit the 8 a few more times and nothing happens – then I notice I’ve repeated the 2 [after deciding this software stinks].  At no time did the system let me know – explicitly – that I was trying to enter a number larger than I should.  Certainly if the software had lots of fields that limited input like this, and I used the software frequently enough, I’d catch on and realize the software’s way of telling me my number was too large was to stop me from typing any more.  I’d get used to it.  But, me personally, I just hate software that blocks my keystrokes – stops me from doing a thing “in my own best interest.”  But, even as I say that, I know it’s an example of self-centered design – it’s what bugs me – and not necessarily what bugs the target user.  What I’d be interested in is what really happens when the functionality is implemented and how it feels to use.


      One more thing: have you ever encountered a form that asks for a social security number, phone number, license plate number, or credit card number – but it won’t let you enter delimiting spaces, dashes – or the normal stuff you might enter if you were filling it out on paper?  It makes the number you’ve entered hard to read – and if you have entered it wrong, harder to detect exactly why because you don’t have those comforting spaces to break things up into readable chunks.  That’s why in my original post I mentioned I need to ask what this number was exactly.  


      But all that said, limiting number input is a small detail.  I can’t imagine the strategy an interaction designer chooses here affects the design of the UI significantly.  That’s why I was hoping that, in spite of the fact that I personally am unwilling to say that “the best way to do this is….”, that someone else had already done so and that I could quote them.  That way I’m not culpable if it’s a dumb decision given the context of this application.  ;-)


      Hope that gives some context.


      Thanks for posting back.




      From: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com [mailto:agile-usability@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Tobias Mayer
      Sent: Monday, July 10, 2006 7:31 PM
      To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: RE: [agile-usability] Interaction design rules of thumb - do they exist?


      Jeff, John,

      I am not in favour of "rules of thumb" either, but in this particular case would one of you provide a concrete example of when it would NOT be a good idea to restrict the data entry to only digits (with a maximum of 8 characters).  I'm having a difficult time imagining when or how this restriction would be considered a hinderence.


      Jon Meads <jon.meads@...> wrote:



      Regar dless of what the developers would like, the correct answer remains, "it depends". Anyone seeking who wants to use "rules of thumb" instead of appropriate user studies will risk turning out substandard, if not unusable, designs. But if you want to check out guidelines, I recommend http://www.usability.gov/


      Hope all is well - give a call if you are up Seattle way.





                 Jon Meads, Usability Architects, Inc.
                 Designing the User Experience

                 425-827-9296, jon@...


      From: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com [mailto:agile-usability@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Jeff Patton
      Sent: Monday, July 10, 2006 3:13 PM
      To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [agile-usability] Interaction design rules of thumb - do they exist?

      Just now a coworker asked me a question on inputing numbers into a text
      box... the form is asking for a number that can be up to 8 digits
      long. He asked what seem like simple questions:
      do you restrict data entry to only digits?
      do you restrict entry to only 8 digits?

      The very unsatisfying answers I give to questions like these are "It
      depends." I'll ask "how is number entry handled elswhere in the
      application? " "Are the users doing heads-down data entry, or are they
      filling out the form more interactively? " "What are the numbers being
      entered? - what do they represent?" This line of questioning usually
      gets in the way of the hard and fast answers people are looking for.

      So my question for this group is: does a book/reference of boilerplate
      UI/IxD rules of thumb exist?

      Or, secondarily, is there a good place to track down usability research
      on specific topics - such as the best way to enter numbers into form




    • Chris Pehura
      For me, I found sequence diagrams work well. Buy it may just be my style. Chris Pehura chris@pehura.com 630-696-8101 ... From: Desilets, Alain
      Message 42 of 42 , Jul 14, 2006
        For me, I found sequence diagrams work well. Buy it may just be my style.

        Chris Pehura

        -----Original Message-----
        From: "Desilets, Alain" <alain.desilets@...>
        Date: Fri, 14 Jul 2006 07:20:27
        Subject: RE: [agile-usability] Interaction design rules of thumb - do they exist?

        BTW, one of the things that doesn't work often enough is asking the users to report what they were doing. Many times I have seen users do one thing and then tell me that they did it differently. I would have doubted my sanity if I hadn't had co-observers with me. 
        -- Alain:
        Does this happen even in talk-aloud situations?
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