echo "hey, it works" > /dev/null

just enough to be dangerous

The user test

I've had a casual interest in usability and user experience for a while now, but up until now the interest has been passive: reading widely and observing friends and family use web sites.

Yesterday, however, I was involved in my first user testing session. I've been reading Steve Krug's Rocket Surgery Made Easy, which I highly recommend for getting started with user testing, so I had a reasonable idea what to expect. But I was still shocked at how glaringly obvious important usability issues seemed after less than half an hour with someone who hadn't used the software before.

Wow, the top navigation menu is completely invisible!

Now to work out how to get more user testing happening for open source projects.

An input device lesson

I recently found that you can find out what time it is in other parts of the world by entering 'what time is it in blah' into Google. I use Firefox with Google as my default search engine, so to find out the time somewhere it's just a matter of Cmd+K and asking. My 74 year old father in law's son lives in Boston, and his daughters in Melbourne and Perth, so I showed him what I thought was a pretty cool trick. This conversation followed:

Him: I can get that from the World Clock site.
Me: But this way you don't have to go to the site, just type it in the seach box.
Him: But I don't have to type anything on the World Clock site.

Yes, I would prefer to use the keyboard for everything if I could. I can touch type (and I'm so glad I can), but he can't. If my father in law could use the mouse for everything, he would. I guess that's one reason we don't get much email from him.

Humanized > Weblog: Ten Ways to Make More Humane Open Source Software

[Making OSS UIs work]


1. Get a Benevolent Dictator
2. Make the Program Usable In Its Default State
3. Design Around Tasks
4. Write a Plug-In Architecture
5. User Testing, User Testing, User Testing!!

Do Not

1. Develop Without A Vision
2. Join the Clone Wars
3. Leave the UI Design Up To The End User
4. Make the Interface a Thin Veneer over the Underlying Implementation
5. Treat UI Design as Babysitting Idiots

Error message hell

While trying to book an international flight online through Emirates, clicking submit on the second last step in an involved process I got the following error message:


So friendly. Certainly gives me a way forward, like step-by-step instructions about how to solve the problem. My middle name is part of my profile, and there are certain things in your profile you can't edit. Like your name. When I joined Skywards, the Emirates reward program, I'd entered "C" as my middle initial, and after a recent "upgrade" the full middle name was required. The error message was a show stopper, so it was on to the phone centre to get them to change my name, or no flight. Which I wouldn't have minded if the error message had said:

Our booking system requires you to have a middle name longer than one character. Please send an email to blah or call blah to update your profile.