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?

#19 Re: Two aspects of usability

by billpena

Sunday November 12th, 2000 10:57 AM

You are replying to this message

I work as an IA and UI designer, and this column sums up so much of what\'s important when considering usability. Mozilla does a better job of it than Netscape, and there\'s one reason: defaults.

Recently there was an interview on with the UI team at Eazel, who are developing the next-generation file manager for GNOME\'s next release, and they talked about the importance of defaults when creating an interface that enables so much power for those who want to use the application to its full potential, while enabling a new user of computers, let alone this desktop, to get real work done easily. The message is clarity, establishing a clear hierarchy of importance that\'s reflected in waht features are presented by default, what icons and links are shown, what modules are started, and even whether there\'s text under the icon or not.

Netscape botches this by infesting Netscape 6 with links to Net2Phone, AIM, My Netscape, every last Netcenter area, \"Netscape Radio\" (Winamp), My Sidebar (defaulted to Today\'s Tips, I believe; essentially \"netscape homepage\") and on and on. This all clutters the essentially clean Mozilla interface with so many buttons, toggles, menus and widgets that I had no idea what I was looking at when I first loaded Netscape 6. After going through the preferences, I managed to whittle it down to quite an elegant UI, but there\'s no way in hell Joe Bloggs User is going to spend the first 20 minutes after they install Netscape fiddling with preferences.

But as Microsoft is headed in the exact same direction with MSN Explorer (just released - blech!), Netscape will be hitting even ground, ad to ad, mano a mano.