Retain "obvious" instructions?

24 Nov 2008 - 4:37pm
5 years ago
5 replies
383 reads
jabbett
2008

I've been working on a redesign of the web-based user interface for a
personal health record platform, and I began to wonder -- do I need to
retain the one-line instruction that seems to be on the top of every major
data listing (medications, lab tests, immunizations, etc.):

"Click any item in the list to see more detail" (or something similar
to that effect)

The title of each list item is hyperlinked with underlined, blue text.

I guess the bigger questions are:

Do I assume my users' basic browsing abilities at my own peril?
Does even a basic task of web usage need to be field-tested?

I'm already prepared for the "it depends" answers! ;)

Thanks,
Jon

Comments

24 Nov 2008 - 4:52pm
Dante Murphy
2006

It's probably still a good idea to test the behavior (if your budget and
timeline allow). Even if you assume correctly that most people will
"figure it out" on their own, the real question is "what is the overall
impact of removing the text?"

You may be able to display some additional lines, or use a larger font,
or have more whitespace, all of which may lead to increased productivity
or satisfaction. But you may also experience some delays as the user
switches their mental model from repetitive process to concentration and
reasoning. This break in "flow" might outweigh the gains realized.

This would also be a good candidate for "longitudinal research", since
the negative impact would lessen over time as existing users acclimate
and new users are trained on the new system.

In the absence of the requisite time and money to do the test, though,
I'd get rid of the extraneous text. It sounds utterly superfluous to
me.

Dante Murphy | Director of User Experience| D I G I T A S H E A L T H
229 South 18th Street | Rittenhouse Square | Philadelphia, PA 19103 |
USA
Email: dmurphy at digitashealth.com
www.digitashealth.com

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Jonathan Abbett
Sent: Monday, November 24, 2008 4:38 PM
To: IxDA
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Retain "obvious" instructions?

I've been working on a redesign of the web-based user interface for a
personal health record platform, and I began to wonder -- do I need to
retain the one-line instruction that seems to be on the top of every
major
data listing (medications, lab tests, immunizations, etc.):

"Click any item in the list to see more detail" (or something
similar
to that effect)

The title of each list item is hyperlinked with underlined, blue text.

I guess the bigger questions are:

Do I assume my users' basic browsing abilities at my own peril?
Does even a basic task of web usage need to be field-tested?

I'm already prepared for the "it depends" answers! ;)

Thanks,
Jon
________________________________________________________________
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24 Nov 2008 - 7:19pm
Anonymous

I agree. The benefit of removing the text is creating a simpler page to
read and understand. The downside is that a few users may not know to
click on a link. These days, very few people would not know to click a
link. I think you're on safe ground there if all the instructions are
similarly straightforward.

Alinta Thornton
User Experience Lead

independent digital media
web publishing | marketing+technology services | publisher solutions
Westside, Level 2 Suite C, 83 O'Riordan Street, Alexandria NSW Australia
2015
PO Box 7160, Alexandria, NSW 2015
W www.idmco.com.au

B http://eezia.blogspot.com

-----Original Message-----
>>

In the absence of the requisite time and money to do the test, though,
I'd get rid of the extraneous text. It sounds utterly superfluous to
me.

Dante Murphy >>

25 Nov 2008 - 9:21am
sylvania
2005

Hi Jon,

In this case, I'd say it doesn't depend. It used to be that we couldn't assume users had this basic understanding of how to use Web sites, but these days, this sort of "helpful" text really does nothing but increase visual noise, page complexity, and cognitive load by adding elements that the user has to ignore to complete their tasks. Links are for clicking, and users know this.

Beyond that, I tend to treat in-place instruction as a last resort, even when usability testing shows that users are having problems. The problem with in-place instruction is that users read it once (maybe), after which it's just persistent visual noise, muddying up the interface. A better solution is to make the interface itself communicate it's function so that the instructional text isn't needed.

Cheers!
Sylvania

User Experience Designer
TechSmith Corp.

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Jonathan Abbett
Sent: Monday, November 24, 2008 4:38 PM
To: IxDA
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Retain "obvious" instructions?

I've been working on a redesign of the web-based user interface for a
personal health record platform, and I began to wonder -- do I need to
retain the one-line instruction that seems to be on the top of every major
data listing (medications, lab tests, immunizations, etc.):

"Click any item in the list to see more detail" (or something similar
to that effect)

The title of each list item is hyperlinked with underlined, blue text.

I guess the bigger questions are:

Do I assume my users' basic browsing abilities at my own peril?
Does even a basic task of web usage need to be field-tested?

I'm already prepared for the "it depends" answers! ;)

Thanks,
Jon
________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

25 Nov 2008 - 6:26pm
jet
2008

For what class of users can we assume that? I ask because I'm around a
few 60+ people who have trouble with many sites on the web and the
feeling they have to re-learn how to "use the bank website" because it
changed.

Can you better define the people who are going to be using this? It
would seem that if you're working on a product designed for
professionals in a business setting, I can see where maybe you can make
more assumptions about skill-sets. (But don't make too many, my
dentist's receptionist still uses a paper date book with a pencil... :-)

Dye, Sylvania wrote:

> In this case, I'd say it doesn't depend. It used to be that we couldn't assume users had this basic understanding of how to use Web sites, but these days, this sort of "helpful" text really does nothing but increase visual noise, page complexity, and cognitive load by adding elements that the user has to ignore to complete their tasks. Links are for clicking, and users know this.
>
> Beyond that, I tend to treat in-place instruction as a last resort, even when usability testing shows that users are having problems. The problem with in-place instruction is that users read it once (maybe), after which it's just persistent visual noise, muddying up the interface. A better solution is to make the interface itself communicate it's function so that the instructional text isn't needed.
>
> Cheers!
> Sylvania
>
> User Experience Designer
> TechSmith Corp.
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Jonathan Abbett
> Sent: Monday, November 24, 2008 4:38 PM
> To: IxDA
> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Retain "obvious" instructions?
>
> I've been working on a redesign of the web-based user interface for a
> personal health record platform, and I began to wonder -- do I need to
> retain the one-line instruction that seems to be on the top of every major
> data listing (medications, lab tests, immunizations, etc.):
>
> "Click any item in the list to see more detail" (or something similar
> to that effect)
>
> The title of each list item is hyperlinked with underlined, blue text.
>
> I guess the bigger questions are:
>
> Do I assume my users' basic browsing abilities at my own peril?
> Does even a basic task of web usage need to be field-tested?
>
> I'm already prepared for the "it depends" answers! ;)
>
> Thanks,
> Jon
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

--
J. Eric "jet" Townsend, CMU Master of Tangible Interaction Design '09

design: www.allartburns.org; hacking: www.flatline.net; HF: KG6ZVQ
PGP: 0xD0D8C2E8 AC9B 0A23 C61A 1B4A 27C5 F799 A681 3C11 D0D8 C2E8

1 Dec 2008 - 11:41am
sylvania
2005

Hi Eric,

I would assert that basic link functionality can now be assumed for *most* users who have at least rudimentary experience with web pages. I'm talking specifically about "click the link" knowledge. Yes, even 60+ users.

That said, of course there are plenty of things that can and do get in the way of that knowledge - mixed affordance, misdirection, and a host of other usability problems - but the solution still shouldn't be an instructional line about how links work.

What kind of trouble are your 60+ friends having on the web? Trouble with many sites on the web is perfectly normal, even for 0-59 users, because lots of web sites have bad design in many, many ways (still!). I personally have to doubt that their trouble is coming from not knowing what a link is for. Relearning how to use the bank website is a common frustration for all of us because banks are notorious for horrendous usability. These are symptoms of usability problems in design, though, and the design itself should be *fixed;* "obvious" instructional text is just a big, bright pink band-aid soaked in salt.

Most problems we see with links nowadays come not from a lack of basic understanding, but from the site not following basic link protocol and sending mixed signals. Links of various colours, using the link colour for non-link headers, "links" that aren't actually links but that do something unexpected, etc.

Honestly, I don't like making assumptions either, but we have to make a few to facilitate cohesive design for the majority of users. Of course, if your design is aimed at people whom you *know* really don't understand how links work (and good luck getting them to your web site, by the way), I'd *still* not go with instructional text, but really gear the whole design a different way. Large, easy to understand buttons with lots of "click me" affordance, less text - not more, consistent use of good iconography, etc.

Happy Holidays,
Sylvania

User Experience Designer
Techsmith Corp.

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