# Sunday, May 07, 2006

The title of this post comes from a staff member at a client of mine. We were discussing a possible project and the staffer was showing me how they did a particular task. They were using a web app that was going to a lot of trouble not to look like a web app: the users all had a shorctut on their desktop to launch a browser pointed at the site, most of IEs toolbars were suppressed so you didn't think you were even in a browser, and so on.

She performed a search, but before clicking the button she copied her search terms from the textbox, opened a blank Notepad, and pasted them in. "I'll explain that in a minute", she said. Then she clicked the button, and followed the link to the first search hit of twelve or so. On that page she made a small change, or noted down something she saw, something minor anyway. Then she said "Here's the frustrating part." There was no link back to the search results and the IE toolbars were all suppressed. So she used the nav bar links to go back to the home page, from there clicked a link to the search page, pasted in the search terms she had saved, did the search again, followed the second link this time (and the designer didn't like visited and non-visited links being different colours so she had to remember which one she was on) and round and round again.

So I asked "why don't you just use the Back key?" "What Back key?" She was on the second result, and I reached over and pressed Backspace to take her back to the search results. That's when she said "You just saved me an hour a day!" She didn't hug me, but she did something just as good -- ran around the office telling everyone else what she had learned. That particular project didn't fly, but I still do lots of work for that client. And those five people all have an extra hour a day for the rest of time.

What do you know that you're not telling users? Keyboard shortcuts, context menus, alternate ways to do simple tasks... share it!


Sunday, May 07, 2006 12:17:38 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [4]
Sunday, May 07, 2006 12:57:34 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
And the reverse....what interfaces are we designing that make life for our users tougher? What makes our users go "Arrrrrgh!" ? How do we make life easier for them?

Whether its a keyboard shortcut in GMail or the stuff we can do with the Start Key in windows (Start + R, D, M being just three examples of shortcuts I use *all* the time)...or that super responsive AJAX application that seamlessly handles the back button on your Internet Browser...thats design that thrills people :)

And as a consultant, isn't that what you advise your clients to do? I bet you do, if you get such a big kick out of making them happy!
Sunday, May 07, 2006 5:59:16 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)

The Back Button is Only a Bandage - What's the Solution?

Sunday, May 07, 2006 6:18:42 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Rob, you're so right, it should have been a Smart Client. So many apps were built as web apps when they should not have been. In the meantime, I do like to make life simpler for the non-decision-maker who was stuck in an endless round of repeating the same search just so as to traverse all the results. I also like to tell decision makers this story :-)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006 2:27:16 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)

You're going to consultants a bad name. We're supposed to heap pain on users, not relieve them of it :)

More seriously, I often tell clients that if they let me sit with a user for a day I could save that user several hours a week. Like your example, we may not be able to change the applications they are using but we can show them how to use them more effectively.

See you at DevTeach
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