Weekend Discussion: Usability - Mozilla to West Palm Beach

Friday November 10th, 2000

We're all probably keenly aware that there were numerous usability problems (and here) with the balloting in West Palm Beach county during this Presidential election which created voting patterns which according to statisticians are, for all practical purposes, an impossibility.

Not going into questions of legitimacy regarding the vote, my questions to you are these: Can blame be placed when usability issues create incorrect or uncertain results? Is there remedy? Much has been said about usability issues in Mozilla - how does Mozilla's usability play a part in the developer/user relationship? Is there blame to be placed if a lack of usability testing creates an interface that's difficult for users to navigate? Do you think a correlation can be drawn between software UI usability and usability issues for paper interfaces like government forms or ballots? What responsiblity, if any, does the user hold for navigating a UI or form that suffers from serious usability issues?

#16 Auto-updating considered harmful

by mpt <>

Saturday November 11th, 2000 9:00 PM

You are replying to this message

`As long as Netscape 6 provides a simple and convenient -- if not transparent -- means of updating the browse[r], then what can or can not make it into this or that release becomes unimportant.'

That is ignoring two basic truths about users. Firstly, Netscape 6.0 is (despite Netscape Marketing's messing with the version number) an x.0 release. As such, many users will judge the whole of the Netscape 6.x series by the quality of 6.0.

And secondly, many users never, never update their software. They become comfortable with it, and proficient at using it. Why should they upgrade? They have no real way of knowing in advance whether any gain in productivity a new version provides (from increased stability, performance, or convenience) will outweigh the loss of productivity caused by the requirement to relearn how to do certain things.

`I look forward to the day when my browser *surprises* me with now feature[s] ...'

From a usability point of view, surprises are almost always bad. A surprise is when the computer does not do what you were expecting it to do.

Any updates to software should be okayed by the user; and, where possible, they should be presented with a short and readable list of what they need to know in order to use the new version.

-- mpt