Teaching Examples

Understanding usability
April 27, 2006, 1:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I find it hard to spend enough time on teaching concepts of usability to journalism students. We have so few courses in which they can learn about digital media. This article about dimensions of usability provides a good one-stop starting place.


Effective: Can the users get what they came to get?

If a user cannot actually do the thing he or she set out to do, it probably doesn’t matter whether the experience was short or long, easy or hard.

Efficient: Is it fast (enough) and accurate?

Engaging: Is it pleasant, satisfying, interesting?

Error tolerant: Are error messages, dead ends and freezes avoided? If an error occurs, is it easy to recover and move on? The second is at least as important as the first.

Easy to learn: Can you figure out how to use it without a huge effort? This is also known as transparency.

I’ll never forget a passage in Don Norman’s book The Design of Everyday Things (which I read back in 1989) that said if a door handle needs to have “Push” written on one side and “Pull” written on the other, then that door handle has a poor design.

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