Changing a Light Bulb
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Posted by: Nathan Swartzendruber
When a blinker went out on my car a few weeks ago, I looked up the
part number in my owner’s manual and went to an auto parts store. The
bulb numbering had changed (I guessed on seeing the packages), so I
looked up the part number in the book helpfully located in that aisle
and scanned the packages down to where the bulb should be.
was no orange light there. So after hunting around for a few minutes, I
went up to the desk to ask for help. The tech came back with me and
located the light quickly. The package had two part numbers on it, and
it wasn’t shelved by the number I was looking for. She knew to look for
it in a different place when there wasn't a match for the first number.
paid my $6 and left thinking, that was awfully difficult. It seemed set
up for easy self-service, but it would have been much quicker to have
gone straight to the counter and let the tech fetch the light for me. That’s
poor usability. The process seemed self-explanatory, but that
explanation was wrong.
Experiences like this are frustrating, and
familiar. They’re also avoidable, to a great extent, when usability is a
constant participant in the design process. A great way to get
acquainted with this field is with Steve Krug’s book on web usability, Don’t
Make Me Think. The ebook version also happens to be on
sale for $12.99 this week.
I like this book because it has a
nice mix of research and common sense. Krug’s done a lot of usability
testing, and he uses those testing results to set up principles of
usability. For example, people scan web pages; they don’t read all the
text that’s there. So organize pages so their purpose can be quickly
understood at a scan. These principles are very useful for working on
website design, but they’re also great for other information-rich
locations. Like libraries.
Changing a light bulb should only take
one person. Designing for usability rewards the people who use the tools
you build instead of suggesting you don’t want them to be too
independent. Want to chat about usability? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Swartzendruber, SWON Technology Educator
Level-Up Lab: Project Management
a project requires focused attention in a lot of different directions,
from concerns like usability testing to the strengths and weaknesses of
your team members. It can be very helpful to hear about someone else’s
project management approach to help you organize your own work.
Level-Up Lab, scheduled for December 10th at SWON’s office, covers a
lot of ground and can connect you to other project managers. With time
for instruction and time for discussion, there are lots of ways to find
good take-aways. Register