Joel on Software’s latest (and well said) rant provides an analogy of how usability is different based on the user’s experiences. When a Mac user users a PC and a PC user uses a Mac, they’re going to find it uncomfortable because they’re set in their ways. I know someone who is currently in Europe and wrote me an email from Germany where two letters were reversed along with some other differences. While I was able to read her email, it was riddled with symbols that appeared when she press a key out of habit. Does that make the German keyboard an example of poor usability?
Here’s the simple point Joel makes if you read nothing else: “Something is usable if it behaves exactly as expected.”
When I reviewed over 200 Web sites, I had to try everything out so I could judge them fairly. A few Web sites’ design teams tried to get too creative as I was surprised by what happened after I did something. This tells me that they were trying to veer from standard expectations or they completely left out the users while designing their sites.
When we work on a site, we get to know it too well to find these surprises. Ask a friend of family member to try things out and see what happens.
When Meryl K. Evans isn’t fighting screwy computers, she is busy as the Content Maven behind meryl.net and helps companies get better results through simple words that make a big impact. You can visit her blog or drop her a line.
[tags]web design,meryl k. evans,usability,joel on software,web judge[/tags]