Usability Aphorism

User experience: Looking for an option on a long menu.

Aphorism: If a dialog screen requires 4-5 page downs to navigate, there should be a search and find feature.

Explanation: Why did I choose this many page downs? Based on the theoretical limit identified for how many things people can keep in their mind. The users are probably scanning, and if by the time they get to the last page they don’t remember it any longer, they will become unsure whether they missed something, which is frustrating. They don’t want to scan again, they want to search.

The ideal search feature would operate as the familiar Ctrl-F menu in most internet browsers.


Did you know you have an Other folder for your messages in Facebook?

I met a person last night that reminded me of my childhood best friend.  We used to be Facebook friends, but we aren’t anymore, which makes sense, we lost touch.  I know she didn’t delete me from negative feelings, so I write her a quick message, since I’m not actually interested in a Friends Request- her public profile suffices, as well as mine, for the level of reconnection I want. 

As I prepare to send my message, I notice some information.  I learn that it costs $1.00 to send my message to the Inbox, otherwise it will be filtered into her Other folder.


Other folder? I think to myself.  Huh.  Didn’t know I had one of those.

Sure enough, three messages were filtered there, one of which I would have wanted to know about.

I didn’t take the bait and now have some anxiety over not being sure she will read my message. Facebook, claiming proudly to never be anything but free, is counting on this very emotion to make money, an emotion rooted in my knowledge that she might not know she has an Other folder.

It is troubling that Facebook is ready to implement features without properly training its users how to use them that can cause them to miss messages sent to them for the purpose of making money. People join Facebook because it helps them connect with one another and it is attempting to profit from implementing poor design.

In the meantime, if you know to look for it, it is right next to Inbox in the messages interface.

Usability Immunity System

One of my friends who is a master of Linux development and scripting and such, recently posted on his G+ about a usability issue pertaining to Gnome help menus. Soon, someone commented that that’s how Windows users feel all the time using Linux. I almost use Windows and Ubuntu Linux in equal proportion, so I feel like I can reasonably say (taking into account that the hardware I have at home is inferior to the school’s) I have equal usability problems with Windows and Ubuntu Linux. And if you consider the constraints of a Linux operating system before you buy your hardware, well, you really shouldn’t have any issues at all.


Musing on this conflict, I postulated that users build a sort of usability immunity with the operating system and tools they use most frequently. The stresses that don’t seem “normal” affect them more strongly. That makes Live Linux CDs the inoculations of the operating system world.  😉  On a serious note, when writing documentation and interfaces for a product competing against something with substantial market share, I think it is important to research as thoroughly as you can the immune systems of your target audience. You don’t want to make them sick!

Safely Removing Devices

After I completed editing a bunch of videos in Camtasia on a coworker's portable harddrive I tried to eject the drive and was met with the error that a program was still using it.? I combed over my task manager and failed to find the offending program.? If Safely Remove Devices has the functionality to detect that the drive is being used, I imagine it shouldn't be too difficult to implement a feature that would show these programs to the user.? If the developer was going for an A+ on this assignment, they would of course allow the user to select and close these programs from the screen.

Column breaks should always have a keyboard shortcut.

I almost always prefer to use a program like InDesign to compose documents with columns, but every once in awhile I need to create a columned document in a word processor.? I continuously find that my productivity is affected by needing to take time to learn how to get a column break into the document, while page break is almost universally ctrl-enter. I recommend ctrl-/ or ctrl-q.

Google Docs feature I’ve long wanted

A small feature that I think would improve my experience with Google Drive would be a Delete option in the menu.? Whether at the end of the menu or under "Make a copy…" this feature would be useful to me primarily because documents I share or that others share with me don't always have descriptive enough titles for me to determine whether I want to delete the file from it's title in the Drive.? If implemented there would need to be a confirmation message before deleting? so that a user's slip of the finger won't cause them to lose their document, but this additional requirement is not prohibitive.


An example of how proximity is important in UI design


I love Notepad++. But when I wanted to close a single tab, I felt a bit of anxiety venturing to press the x button.? You'll notice in Firefox or Chrome that the x's are on the tabs. This is important because a user (such as myself in this case) may feel like its a possibility that they'll close ALL the tabs when they press it.? If there is no real way to add an x to an individual tab for some reason, perhaps a menu on hover that says "Close Current Tab" could help.