The ease index

27 Jun 2006 - 5:57pm
8 years ago
4 replies
466 reads
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

I'm finding in our usability tests here that users seem to have an
increasing amount of difficulty with editing tasks the further away the
editing is from the starting point. As in, if a user is asked to edit the
size of an image, it's easiest to do if an editing menu comes up right next
to the image and significantly more difficult/frustrating as the editing
feature is moved into a sidebar, into another screen, etc.

It goes like this, in order from easiest to hardest:

1) Point of selection (the spot where the image is clicked)
2) Sidebar tools
3) Menus in sidebars
4) Menus in the main shell interface
5) Popup windows
6) Menus in popup windows

Can anyone here echo this trend? It's very interesting - mainly because it
makes perfect sense. That doesn't happen very often. :)

-r-

Comments

27 Jun 2006 - 6:18pm
Juan Lanus
2005

On 6/27/06, Robert Hoekman, Jr. <rhoekmanjr at gmail.com> wrote:
> I'm finding in our usability tests here that users seem to have an
> increasing amount of difficulty with editing tasks the further away the
> editing is from the starting point.

Seems like a verification of the Fitt's law:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitts'_law

In picture edition programs like the GIMP the contextual menus (Point
of selection) replicate the content of the ~ sidebars.
IMO users use the menu for operations they "know" and the tool windows
for to find out what's available, like Alan Cooper's "learning vector:

Of all options the one I dislike more is "Menus in the main shell
interface". In fact, I use a completely menu-less UI, always. I mean,
yes to contextual menus, no "menu bar" near the top of the windows.
I did intuitively by 1998 the first time I needed a really-usable-and-learnable
UI and it worked like a charm so I never went back.
--
Juan Lanus
TECNOSOL
Argentina

27 Jun 2006 - 6:55pm
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

This observation could be derived from combinations of many design
principles. For instance, besides Fitt's law, you could easily apply Hick's
law, Function consistency, Exposure effect, Mental models, Mapping,
Visibility and Recognition over Recall principles.

Of course Fitt's law would apply the most to controls presented on the same
screen.

--
Oleh Kovalchuke
Interaction Design is Design of Time
http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm

On 6/27/06, Juan Lanus <juan.lanus at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> On 6/27/06, Robert Hoekman, Jr. <rhoekmanjr at gmail.com> wrote:
> > I'm finding in our usability tests here that users seem to have an
> > increasing amount of difficulty with editing tasks the further away the
> > editing is from the starting point.
>
> Seems like a verification of the Fitt's law:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitts'_law
>
> In picture edition programs like the GIMP the contextual menus (Point
> of selection) replicate the content of the ~ sidebars.
> IMO users use the menu for operations they "know" and the tool windows
> for to find out what's available, like Alan Cooper's "learning vector:
>
> Of all options the one I dislike more is "Menus in the main shell
> interface". In fact, I use a completely menu-less UI, always. I mean,
> yes to contextual menus, no "menu bar" near the top of the windows.
> I did intuitively by 1998 the first time I needed a
> really-usable-and-learnable
> UI and it worked like a charm so I never went back.
> --
> Juan Lanus
> TECNOSOL
> Argentina
> ________________________________________________________________
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28 Jun 2006 - 11:07am
Chad Jennings
2004

We have had similar observations in testing of our BookSmart
application. We have a similar task of image editing and contextual
tools. That said, two other findings offset this a bit:

1. There is potentially limited space when attaching an edit menu or
toolbar to an image or object. One solution is to hide the options in
a pull-down type menu or small icons. Small, unlabeled icons in
particular carry their own usability problems and tend to add a
feeling of complexity to the interface.

2. It was less important that the editing tools were right next to
the image/object than that the tools "announced" themselves in some
way. What I mean by this is that when the user selects an object the
context specific buttons appear in an obvious way. For us this meant
that a "Image Tools" and "Text Tools" show or hide based on current
object selection.

cheers,
chad

...........................................................
Chad Jennings
VP, Design and User Experience
chad at blurb.com

Blurb, Inc.
...........................................................

On Jun 27, 2006, at 4:57 PM, Robert Hoekman, Jr. wrote:

I'm finding in our usability tests here that users seem to have an
increasing amount of difficulty with editing tasks the further away the
editing is from the starting point. As in, if a user is asked to edit
the
size of an image, it's easiest to do if an editing menu comes up
right next
to the image and significantly more difficult/frustrating as the
editing
feature is moved into a sidebar, into another screen, etc.

28 Jun 2006 - 1:04pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> 2. It was less important that the editing tools were right next to
> the image/object than that the tools "announced" themselves in some
> way. What I mean by this is that when the user selects an object the
> context specific buttons appear in an obvious way. For us this meant
> that a "Image Tools" and "Text Tools" show or hide based on current
> object selection.

I've noticed this as well, and I definitely plan to leverage it in the
future. Thanks for the insight.

-r-

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