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Tai Toh

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    January 2007

    I read this at eWeek.com: Google’s Bosworth: Why Ajax Failed.

    The mistakes, he said, were misperceptions of the realities of the way people would use the technology.

    For instance, Bosworth said a cardinal rule of his is KISS, or, in his words, “Keep It Simple and Stupid.” Gestures like tooling, icons, right-click and drag-drop are too obscure, he said.

    Moreover, most Web applications are designed for large numbers of customers with small amounts of customer support, and most Web applications are not used for hours a day, he said.

    Also, “You don’t need to remember how an app works,” Bosworth said. “There’s a big difference between making something easy to use and making it productive.” In other words, just because people can easily learn to use an application doesn’t mean using the application will make them more productive.

    * [Emphasis added by me.]

    That’s nugget of gold. I’ve tried very hard to make things easy to use; almost to the point of pandering to the lowest denominator. It is almost too easy for IAs, UI designers to think that “ease-of-use” is directly associated to “productivity”. They are only loosely coupled.

    A classic example is the “Wizard” design pattern. Everyone has seen it: Steps 1 to X to accomplish a task. By all means this is easier. It is less error prone. We take the bits of information and chunk them together into humanly-accessible sizes. We provide excellent error-feedback as well as visual cues to reduce and correct errors.

    In user testing, people can accomplish the task. Anecdotally though, their satisfaction is usually very low. It simply isn’t fast enough. Wizards should never be used for common, high-frequency tasks. Moreover, there should be some sort of accelerator provided for advance users.

    So here I am, designing this Fat-client application for the start-up that I’m involved in. The interface is rich and varied. I know the application will be usable—but I know that it would probably fail standard usability metrics.

    How crazy is that? No wonder I’m so jaded.

    On a side note, it’s hard to believe that AJAX was developed 10 years ago. One of the first examples of it was Outlook’s Web Interface for Exchange. I remember using it OnX back in 2002. I couldn’t figure out how they were loading in the data without refreshing the screen. I remember remarking, “Damn, that’s awesome.”

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