October 20th, 2005
[Marymoore Patterson, Publications Manager for Panasonic Semiconductor Development Center and a UI10 attendee, sent us this article that she’d written for her company’s internal newsletter. We’re reprinting it here, in its entirety, with her permission. Do you have a report you want to share?]
Don’t Make Me Think; Or, What I Learned at the User Interface 10 Conference
By Marymoore Patterson
Don’t Make Me Think! is the title of a book by Steve Krug, which I bought at User Interface 10, held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, October 10-14. It’s also what the conference was about – creating user interfaces, primarily Web site and application interfaces, that are so usable, users don’t have to think about them.
Most attendees were Web designers, developers, usability experts, and information architects. Some of the same themes ran throughout the lectures:
- Usability testing is much more effective if done on a small scale throughout the project rather than in one big test at the end.
- Iterative design, based on user test results, is vital for success.
- User tests are a powerful tool for getting buy-in from all team members, including management, especially if they view at least some of the tests live.
- Prevention in the earliest phases of design is much more effective than any usability testing after the fact.
- User tests can be conducted very cheaply.
Humor was woven into almost all of the lectures. “Our job is just funny,” said Hagan Rivers, who gave a full-day class on Deconstructing Web Applications. Humor may be a means of survival for usability experts, who must juggle the often widely varying goals of developers, designers, executives, and users. Ms. Rivers was the first, and for a long time the only, interface designer for the Netscape Web browser, and is currently a leader in Web application design and usability.
In one of his several presentations, usability guru Jared Spool, the mastermind behind the conference, described a classic usability success story. An online office equipment discount store called him because 70% of users were canceling purchases when they reached the credit card input page. The company spent $100,000 implementing encryption security, incorrectly believing this to be the cause of the problem. One user test, as well as subsequent tests, showed that in fact, users just didn’t want to submit their credit cards before they knew how much shipping would cost. The company moved the shipping page to appear before the credit card page, and revenues rapidly shot up.
One of the hot topics at the conference was Ajax, a new tool for transferring data between the server and client on-the-fly, eliminating the need to reload pages every time a link is clicked or data submitted. The coming year should see a rapid implementation of Ajax, in both dramatic and subtle ways. Currently, Google uses Ajax in its map application (maps.google.com). Unlike other online maps, at least until now, Google’s allows you to glide smoothly to new views while the rest of the page remains static. Ajax is one of the components of the up-and-coming Web 2.0, a concept that involves developers combining unrelated Web engines to create new applications. (The most-cited example is www.housingmaps.com, in which Silicon Valley engineer Paul Rademacher combined Google’s map with Craig’s List real estate listings to create an application for people trying to buy or rent real estate.)Tweet