Designing Users/Interfaces

Huco 500 – Weekly questions

Tognazzini uses the term “user” quite a bit in his article without qualifying it.  He indicates that the most important part of building an interface that “anticipates” a user’s needs is knowing your user, but this goes without saying.  The user as a concept relies entirely on the service one offers; the user for a medical reference database for medical professionals will not be the same as the user of a social media application (e.g. Twitter).  It might be more valuable to start by thinking about the service an interface offers, and to consider the best/most effective possible way of showcasing/presenting that service.  Determining user expectations and behaviours will be much easier once this task is complete, and will avoid making generalizations about what users want.

Effective applications and services perform a maximum of work, while requiring a minimum of information from users. (Tognazzini)

How do you determine what the “minimum” is?  The interface still relies on the user having some idea of what result they need.  A developer should start with what service(s) the interface assists with, and build the interface based on what the requirements are to fulfill that service.  Note that the less information a user provides the less accurate a result will be.

How do you conduct an interface user study?  What tasks do you need test users to perform?  What questions should you ask?  How do you measure effectiveness and efficiency?


Tognazzini, Bruce. “First Principles of Interaction Design.” Last accessed 7 October 2009.

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