Over time users expect websites to behave a certain way. Clicking the logo will take them to the home page, Navigation will be presented at the top or left, copyright and legal info will be found in the footer. These expectations help users navigate faster since they know what to expect when visiting unfamiliar websites, based on previous experiences on the web.
A good rule of thumb or design principle to use in interaction design is to follow the “Principle of least astonishment“. In the case of interactive software applications, for example, users form expectations based on their experience with similar kinds of software.
With more websites taking the leap from static content brochures to interactive services, these same principles apply for website design as well.
Here is a quick usability test.
- I want to find and add people to both my Myspace and Twitter accounts.
- I dont have the direct links to them, I will need to search for their names
- I already have an account on both services.
Case 1: Following ‘techcrunch’ on Twitter
I’m , looking for someone who I know uses twitter, but I don’t have a link to their profile. I want to search for them and follow their twitter updates.
I’m , looking for somewhere to search for them on the twitter homepage, or any pages linked to it. No Dice.
By not including search functionality twitter made it much harder for me to connect to a user.
I do the next best thing i know and search google, with hopes of finding their profile. keep in mind that this is a public profile, and did not require me to be a twitter user to view, so I should be able to search for it right on twitter and get much more relevant results than through google.
I scan the page for a link to Follow them on Twitter. The link does not exist. Take a second to pause here. This is a huge problem.
What do people do on twitter ?
They Follow other people via their twitter streams.
The most basic function of this web service is hidden on this page.
Nowhere on this page do they tell me that I need to login before I can ‘Follow’ someone. But I login anyway to see if I can follow them after logging on.
Logging In took me to my dashboard. This is not where I wanted to be, I wanted to follow techcrunch. It doesn’t redirect me back to the page I was on. There are no links to go back to the twitter stream I was viewing.
I still haven’t been able to follow the techcrunch twitter stream. To get back to their page I have to look through my history or click my ‘Back’ button. Most people click the back button, I did the same.
This left me at the login page. Back once again for the TechCrunch twitter Stream.
And there is still NO link for ‘Follow’. This is because Im being served a cached version of the page. I have to refresh the page to see the ‘Follow’ link. Less computer-savvy users may miss this part entirely.
Case 2 : Adding ‘Radiohead’ as a Myspace friend
The winner : Myspace
The myspace add to friends process was so much simpler that I didn’t even feel the need to explain the screenshots. Every step was a step forwards and a step towards adding radiohead as my friend, no back-tracking required.
The Best User Interface is the one thats transparent and allows the user to get tasks done. Although twitter may look better it is certainly not more user-friendly.