QCon 2007 Notes: Constantine on Design

Larry Constantine, Meeting the Usability Challenge

  • Redundant presences and multiple paths will increase success rates
    • Sometimes, to simplify things, you need to make them more complicated
    • If you’re building a word processor, say, don’t just put “insert a caption” under “References”; put it under “Insert” as well. Or make it more customizable
  • Design for use means meeting genuine user needs
    • Don’t ask what they want, because they’ll tell you, and it may not be what they need
    • Do activity-focused inquiries to find out the tasks they need to perform, and use that to drive the process
    • Focus on human activities and user tasks
    • Organize UIs around activities and tasks, almost always. Avoid category hierarchies and logical clusters
  • Usable systems should be easy to:
    • Learn
    • Remember
    • Keep Learning
    • Use Efficiently
  • Technical constraints should never be passed on to the user
    • e.g., having to hit the update button to recalculate the price when you’ve changed a value? “This is execrable, this is unforgivable, this is the programmer turning the user into a subroutine”
    • Design from the outside in. The tech is our problem, not the users’
  • Unless you have a compelling (i.e. shouldn’t really just be a technical constraint) reason not to do so, let the users edit things where they are
  • “If it [a requirement] doesn’t fit on one card, then we’re wrong”

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