Don’t Slow Down the User

by Krishna on May 5, 2007

Ever noticed the guy who presses the Close-Door button on the elevator? Well, if you didn’t, that is me. Like most people, I dislike waiting idly for something. However that is what many websites and applications make me do all the time.

Here are some examples:

  1. Video/audio without transcripts: The problem with video and audio clips is that they are sequential and do not allow easy scanning. One has to hear or see the entire clip to gain useful information. While this is okay for a funny YouTube clip, it is really frustrating when done for interviews. I can skim or read the text in a few seconds — a fraction of the time required for the clip.
  2. Product demos without screenshots: Sometimes it is useful when your product has a 10-minute video that walks me through the functionality of the application. But I am usually looking for some particular information. While I can click to the 7th minute, I don’t know what I will get. Instead, give me a few screenshots of the application with some meaningful links, titles and descriptions. It is much less expensive to create and is more useful for me.
  3. Wizards without single-screen interface: Wizards are good for the first few times, but later really bog the user down. Once the user reaches a level of proficiency with your software, they will look for shortcuts. When there are no quick ways to perform a task, they will get frustrated. While retaining the wizards for basic users, provide advanced screens for power users.
  4. Burying information and options: Many websites make it very difficult for you to find information about them or their products? Which country or state are you located in? What are your working hours? How much does your product cost? Software applications are no less guilty. Options vs. Preferences. Sometimes the configuration is in the right-click context menu. Sometimes it is under one of the top menu options. Confusing!
  5. Animation on user action: Yes, it is cute when I click an item and things fly all over the place. Maybe once. Then it becomes really tiring. A fraction of the money spent on that would get you a much usable application or website that converts users into real dollars. Flash irritates me for another reason — you cannot easily recognize the links or where they lead to because nothing appears in the status bar.

Make it easy for the user to get their task finished as soon as possible. When the application gets out of the way, users love it more.

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