Usability for configurable UI

12 Aug 2005 - 4:56am
9 years ago
6 replies
974 reads
Sushma, Sudhir ...
2005

Hi,
Does anybody know any reference material for this topic "Usability for a
configurable UI"?
I am currently working on a workflow application where forms, Work flow and
database are configurable. This is imposing lot of constraints on the UI.

For example, having a Inbox in tables is difficult...etc
Could you please share any material that talks about the configurable UI.
And Configurability should to what extent?

Thanks,

Sushma Sudhir
http://my.honeywell.com/htsl/ucd
Honeywell Technology Solutions Lab
151/1 Doraisanipalya, Bannerghatta Road
Bangalore 560076, India
Ph: 91-080-2658 8360, 2658 5751
Extn: 4219

Comments

12 Aug 2005 - 6:00am
Rick Cecil
2004

On 8/12/05, Sushma, Sudhir (IE10) <Sushma.Sudhir at honeywell.com> wrote:
> Does anybody know any reference material for this topic "Usability for a
> configurable UI"?

I know this isn't exactly whay you were asking for, but...

http://tinyurl.com/caj54

An argument against configurable UIs.

-Rick

12 Aug 2005 - 9:06am
Dan Saffer
2003

On Aug 12, 2005, at 4:00 AM, Rick Cecil wrote:

> An argument against configurable UIs.

This is an interesting topic.

In many ways, I agree that giving a user too many choices is an
abdication of design responsibility. And yet we're entering an era of
total configurability. Your RSS reader can display my blog posts any
way you want. I have Firefox extensions that remove ads and change
the ways web pages are displayed. I can take Google Maps and, using
its API, overlay whatever data I want onto it. I can write a
Konfabulator or Dashboard widget to display other people's data
however I want. The absolute control we've enjoyed in the past (which
in some ways was always an illusion) we simply don't have anymore.

What's a designer to do? How do we work in such an environment?

Dan Saffer
Sr. Interaction Designer, Adaptive Path
http://www.adaptivepath.com
http://www.odannyboy.com

12 Aug 2005 - 9:48am
Dave Malouf
2005

Hey! Wasn't there a BayCHI event on Web 2.0 this week? Anyone know how it
went, want to give a report?

But I think Dan's questions are right on target and speak directly to Web
2.0's problem.

Someone posed the question in such a way online (don't have the reference
now) where Web 2.0 means that the designer becomes irrelevant. To me this is
a pendulum issue where the pendulum keeps swinging wider and wider.

To me the problem for the designer has just changed, but the designer is
still the key. Instead of focusing on the design of the presentation and
behavior of our web sites (those places where we broadcast or publish
content from), we need to concentrate on designing tools that enable and
empower common users to take advantage of the expanding world of services
over publications.

I personally, prefer book marking a site instead of using a feed reader, b/c
I haven't found a feed reader that gives me the same taste/flavor of a blog
that I get by actually going to site.

How can we deal w/ services and at the same time hold onto the flavor of the
content in its original presentation?

But we wax romantically here, as the broadcast/publish model is not
disappearing any time soon.

Configurability, personalization, customization all have to be made
available in a "it depends" kinda way. You can't just say no (or yes), and
you can't say yes, w/o designing the solution for the context of use.

Questions around configurability:
1. How do I present default screens in such a way as to communicate which
elements are configurable and be clear as to how to do that?

2. How do I design screens so that they scale w/ the level of
configurability that I allow?

3. Do I allow more configurability than the research shows is necessary? The
reason I stress this last point, is that I have found that there is a
negative experience when configurability doesn't go far enough. I call this
a "tease" factor. Finding this balance is difficult.

-- dave

On 8/12/05 10:06 AM, "Dan Saffer" <dan at odannyboy.com> wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> On Aug 12, 2005, at 4:00 AM, Rick Cecil wrote:
>
>> An argument against configurable UIs.
>
> This is an interesting topic.
>
> In many ways, I agree that giving a user too many choices is an
> abdication of design responsibility. And yet we're entering an era of
> total configurability. Your RSS reader can display my blog posts any
> way you want. I have Firefox extensions that remove ads and change
> the ways web pages are displayed. I can take Google Maps and, using
> its API, overlay whatever data I want onto it. I can write a
> Konfabulator or Dashboard widget to display other people's data
> however I want. The absolute control we've enjoyed in the past (which
> in some ways was always an illusion) we simply don't have anymore.
>
> What's a designer to do? How do we work in such an environment?

-- dave

David Heller
http://synapticburn.com/
http://ixdg.org/
Dave (at) ixdg (dot) org
Dave (at) synapticburn (dot) com
AIM: bolinhanyc || Y!: dave_ux || MSN: hippiefunk at hotmail.com

12 Aug 2005 - 10:25am
Rick Cecil
2004

On 8/12/05, Dan Saffer <dan at odannyboy.com> wrote:
> In many ways, I agree that giving a user too many choices is an
> abdication of design responsibility. And yet we're entering an era of
> total configurability. Your RSS reader can display my blog posts any
> way you want. I have Firefox extensions that remove ads and change
> the ways web pages are displayed. I can take Google Maps and, using
> its API, overlay whatever data I want onto it. I can write a
> Konfabulator or Dashboard widget to display other people's data
> however I want. The absolute control we've enjoyed in the past (which
> in some ways was always an illusion) we simply don't have anymore.
>
> What's a designer to do? How do we work in such an environment?

This is a very cool time to be a designer.

We get the opportunity to design a base system and then watch as our
power users mold it to their needs. It gives us additional data points
that we can use when we go back for the next round of revisions. As
with any data, we can

* Ignore it; if it's something that only a handful of power users will
want, then ignore it. They have their work around and no need to
interfere.

* Integrate into a preferences panel; if it's something that a
significant number of power users would like to use, integrate it as
an optional feature. Be wary of adding optional features, though, as
this is how UIs get cluttered. In fact, you could use the technology
that your user's are using to offer optional featyures. Could you
imagine a GreaseMonkey add-in for Gmail that was actually released by
Google? How cool would that be?

* Integrate it into the system; if it's something that a lot of people
are using or that a lot of people might like to use, then integrate it
into the main system.

Ultimately, though, this dynamic environment empowers users, which, to
my way of thinking, is a beautiful thing. As designers, our challenge
is to determinie which customizations are relevant and how we can
improve upon those customizations when we integrate them into the
system.

I say, sit back and enjoy the show.

-Rick

12 Aug 2005 - 10:26am
Rick Cecil
2004

On 8/12/05, David Heller <dave at ixdg.org> wrote:
> Someone posed the question in such a way online (don't have the reference
> now) where Web 2.0 means that the designer becomes irrelevant. To me this is
> a pendulum issue where the pendulum keeps swinging wider and wider.
>
> To me the problem for the designer has just changed, but the designer is
> still the key.

I absolutely agree and would go on to say that the designer is even
more important in these circumstances. Just like the music
industry...the more stuff that's out there, the more crap you have to
wade through to get to the good stuff. We're going to see many bad UI
components and features crop up as a result of GreaseMonkey, but we're
also going to see a lot of good stuff--as well as a lot of bad stuff
that could be good if it only had some polish.

> Questions around configurability:
> 1. How do I present default screens in such a way as to communicate which
> elements are configurable and be clear as to how to do that?

I think Google's personalized home page is brilliant for several reasons:

* It allows you to move each piece around without having to go to
another preferences panel

* It shows you which blocks are customizable by displaying the "Edit"
and "X" buttons in the top right corner of the block

* The edit dialog for your preferences is displayed on page and
doesn't require another popup of any type.

> 2. How do I design screens so that they scale w/ the level of
> configurability that I allow?

You can't. The more customizations you allow, the more screens users
are going to be able to create that you haven't seen. To that end, you
either accept that you can't design for every situation or you offer
the customizations and give up that control. On the flip side, how
many people actual venture into the preferences panels? Does anyone
have any research on this?

> 3. Do I allow more configurability than the research shows is necessary? The
> reason I stress this last point, is that I have found that there is a
> negative experience when configurability doesn't go far enough. I call this
> a "tease" factor. Finding this balance is difficult.

I would say: no. Offer the core features that the users want. Beyond
that and you're spinning cycles. I would strongly encourage people to
allow users to customize the interface through an add-on language
(much like GreaseMonkey is fast becoming), but beyond that, don't
build in excess customizable features as it will only clutter the
interface.

Our goals as designers, IMO, is to provide enough features to make the
system valuable to the user. To many means we're cluttering the user's
life; too few means we're not doing the job; and either way, we're not
providing value.

-Rick

13 Aug 2005 - 11:46am
LukeW
2004

Hi Dave,
The BAYCHI event had great attendance. I have yet to write up my
thoughts. But these folks already have:

Peter Merholtz:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/Peterme?m=255
Web 2.0 is primarily interesting from a philosophical standpoint.
It's about relinquishing control, it's about openness, it's about
trust and authenticity. APIs, Tags, Ajax, mashups, and all that are
symptoms, outputs, results of this philosophical bent.

Bill Scott:
http://looksgoodworkswell.blogspot.com/2005/08/come-to-me-web.html
One answer is providing subtle invitations to the broader Web 2.0
platform of possibilities along the a line of discovery as the user
moves through his normal Web 1.0 style of navigation. Inferring what
the user is interested in, offering to package similar content,
helping them customize their pages with content are all important
parts of this experience. It will be along the path of normal
consumption that most user's will dip their toe into the Web 2.0
waters and hopefully they will be hooked.

Johnathan Bouetelle:
http://www.jonathanboutelle.com/mt/archives/2005/08/web_20_notforpr.html
The BayCHI Web2.0 panel last night (see technorati tag baychi for
full coverage) was as good as ever. Everyone on the panel emphasized
that openness was very important, that remixing was key to the web.
But what came through was that companies like technorati and flickr
are very happy to let you leverage their APIs ... AS LONG AS YOU
DON'T MAKE ANY MONEY.

On Aug 12, 2005, at 7:48 AM, David Heller wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Hey! Wasn't there a BayCHI event on Web 2.0 this week? Anyone know
> how it
> went, want to give a report?
>

::
:: Luke Wroblewski -[ www.lukew.com ]
:: Principal, LukeW Interface Designs
:: luke at lukew.com | 408.879.9826
::

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