|Maybe I'm just thinking out loud here. In the last post I mused about the complexity of striving for simplicity in design. For every effort to simplify, you discover you have made another user's life more complicated.|
Usability means several things.Tasks should be easy to learn, quick to complete, and hard to screw up. Data displays should be complete, uncluttered, and easy to comprehend. But even these straightforward goals can work against each other. Do we show less information on a page to make it easier to read, or do we show more, so users do not need to click or scroll? The jury is always out on this one - we once recieved an email asking us to use a larger font, allow more white space, and add several columns of information to a particular display.
At the heart of the problem are the complex business requirements that organizations create. I've written before about the importance of weeding out needless complexity. But non-profit staff can only go so far in eliminating requirements from government, insurers, the board, and the ultimately the nature of their work itself. So the software designer's task is to mask or conceal this complexity.
Here are some of the trade-offs I've run into as we work with our users to make software more usable.
It seems no design idea is a panacea. Each must be employed judiciously as users and developers navigate the seas of complexity.