Usability disagreement within a team

22 Dec 2010 - 7:22am
3 years ago
23 replies
2188 reads
Ali Naqvi
2008

Hello people,

I've been assigned to usability test a portal. Unfortunately I can only test the portal based on Usability heuristics at the moment. (And only SOME pages of the portal)

To my surprise, the portal lack basic usability principle such as a hover effect/mouse-over effect.

The graphic designer and I both mentioned this to the rest of the team (programmer, business expert and the project leader)

I was asked to assist the team with my usability knowledge but the team says that a hover effect, is a minor issue and that previous usability experts, told them that this is not necessary... this surprised both the graphic designer and myself. Can this really be true? Can a "usability expert" really say something like this? "A hover effect is not needed?"

The programmer told us that it would take ages to code this, while I told him that it hopefully was a minor change in the stylesheet.... Apparantly it isn't....

The Project manager told me that if the hover effect is to be implemented, it has to be implemented in the entire portal, which he then will have to discuss with the management.

Sigh.... Are they really discussing whether a hover effect is necessary or not? Furthermore, I've been asked to give usability input and I feel that my observations aren't respected.... What to do? I explained why it was necessary but the programmer and business expert just brushed it off the table... The project manager told me that he has to satisfy alot of people, and that usability has a minor priority compared to aestetics... But I can't see how a hover effect will effect aestetics.....

In the attachment you will see a copypaste of the site:

If a user clicks on Investeringsprofil A, Investeringsprofil B etc. a small text will pop up below. I want a roll-over effect here. Furthermore a user (according my understanding) won't have a clue about Investeringsprofil A+B+C is clickable and that text can pop up underneath....

IXDA.png

 

How do you guys deal with such dilemmas?

 

Ali

AttachmentSize
IXDA.png66.26 KB

Comments

22 Dec 2010 - 8:06am
Justin Lanier Smith
2009

First of all, if they truly believe aesthetics are more important than usability I would question that company's ability to even make a quality product. 

Secondly, can you define hover effect better? Is the mouse not changing state or are you talking more about the visuals of the element changing to reflect the rollover? If it's the mouse state then I would say that's a much bigger issue because then the user has no indication that something is really clickable. The visuals changing is not quite as important. I definitely recommend it but it's not critical to the usability as long as the visuals conform to the affordances of that element and the mouse state changes in accordance. 

As far as the effort to change it, neither issue really is that much development. The mouse state is a very simple CSS line to add in the appropriate areas (or less depending on how the CSS inheritance is set up). The rollover visual will be more work but that work would be more on the visual design team to create the necessary assets and then, again, a simple CSS line would be added to the appropriate areas. If the developer thinks this will be difficult then I would question their competence in a developer role.

22 Dec 2010 - 9:05am
Ali Naqvi
2008

Hello Justin,

Neither the mouse is changing state nor the visuals of the element changing to reflect the rollover. I personally believe that the visuals changing will enhance the usability. The triangle could for instance change from no colour to red or the entire line could change from black to red etc.

 

Ali

22 Dec 2010 - 11:05am
a2slbailey
2010

I wonder if part of the issue is over-focusing on the solution to a problem as opposed to clearly defining what problem you're solving--in reading your message it's not clear where the hover is being employed--are you describing a case where they aren't giving any visual cues about the clickability of links or are the hovers for something like a description or tooltip? I can understand a usability expert saying that hovers are not required but I would be very suprised by a usability expert saying that clickability cues are unnecessary. However, you can provide clickability cues through means other than a hover--for example, making the link blue and underlining it and then changing the color for visited links. This has a more "old fashioned" look, but it gets the job done very effectively.

  sb

23 Dec 2010 - 3:02am
Ali Naqvi
2008

I can understand a usability expert saying that hovers are not required but I would be very suprised by a usability expert saying that clickability cues are unnecessary. However, you can provide clickability cues through means other than a hover--for example, making the link blue and underlining it and then changing the color for visited links. This has a more "old fashioned" look, but it gets the job done very effectively.

It was the clickability cues that were unnecessary according to the previous Usability experts that surprised me and the graphic designer.

 

22 Dec 2010 - 10:06am
Bill Bernstein
2009

Ali, it sounds like you have some concern that your audience won't be fully familiar with the convention of the little drop-down / disclosure arrow. If adding a mouse-over effect is politically difficult at the moment (despite that it would actually cause the least disruption), maybe you can add a small "more" label just above each closed arrow, hinting at what it does for those unfamiliar users. The arrow, "more", and "Investeringsprofil A" could all be clickable to the same effect, or whatever subset of those you think works best under the circumstances.
Or, you could drop the arrow completely and replace it with a "see more" and "see less" (or "show more" and "hide") clickable option, if that's a convention that your audience may either recognize, or simply grasp better.


Regards,

Bill Bernstein
Designer
Daedalus

22 Dec 2010 - 10:17am
Ali Naqvi
2008

Hi Bill,

I did discuss the "more" option with the graphic designer....BUT I was reading some litterature on how graphics (in this case the arrow) would make a user realize, that something is clickable rather than just using plain text. I guess I will not know before conducting a usability test on real users on this specific portal....(which is not possible untill late 2011 due to budget restraint :) ) lol (untill then I will be working on another project anyway)

Furthermore the Project manager wants the arrow....   So the arrow will remain....

 

Ali

22 Dec 2010 - 10:06am
Chauncey Wilson
2007

Several good issues here.  One thought that I have is whether "hover effect/mouse-over effect" is really a "usability principle".  I think that hover effect/mouse-over effect" is an implementation approach that could support usability principles like:

  1.  Support initial learning 2.  Recognition rather than recall 3.  Provide efficient access to common features   I think that we often jump to solutions and then those solutions become principles.  The hover/mouse over could be a pattern that supports a design or usability principle.   The second issue that Ali mentioned is whether a feature should be supported in a portion of a product or service and that is tougher.  I don't have a direct answer here, but in some work I did in the 1990s on context-sensitive help, only putting context-sensitive help in some dialogs often resulted in complaints and relatively low usage because people could not predict what would yield help and what would not.  Partial implemention resulted in complaints and more calls to support.

  Chauncey

22 Dec 2010 - 10:57am
bminihan
2007

Similar to Justin, can you clarify what you mean by hover effect?  I thought you meant the text should change color when you hover over it (lacking an underline or any other characteristics of a link, I assume that's why you'd like there to be a hover effect).

Having worked on several enterprise applications (in all of the above roles - PM, usability, designer, developer), I can definitely see their argument.  It's not a question of technical skill, but sounds like a problem with scope.  It seems you've been hired to provide usability input on one small part of a larger enterprise portal, and have recommendations that would affect the entire portal (for all users, whether that change would help everyone or not).  As the PM on the project, with a deadline to meet and stakeholders to appease, I would react the same way and keep the project scope limited to changes that can feasibly be executed in the timeline and agreed by the limited stakeholder group.

I see your point, and it sounds like you're not being given the freedom to do your job.  However, I think making your stand on this one issue is going to further isolate you from the rest of the group. 

23 Dec 2010 - 2:58am
Ali Naqvi
2008

Similar to Justin, can you clarify what you mean by hover effect?  I thought you meant the text should change color when you hover over it (lacking an underline or any other characteristics of a link, I assume that's why you'd like there to be a hover effect).

That is what I mean :)

I see your point, and it sounds like you're not being given the freedom to do your job.  However, I think making your stand on this one issue is going to further isolate you from the rest of the group.

The PM told me t hat he will allow usability testing end of 2011......... Surprised

22 Dec 2010 - 11:05am
kojo
2008

Hi, I have had similar experiences in Norway, in a market maturity model, usability is the main factor to determine whether a web-based solution is successful or not, yet so many claim to be usability experts these days.

I suggest you do this, in a UCD based methodology user involvement in early stages is critical so why don't you conduct a user test to decide whether a hovering effect is required or not, create a second hi-fidelity model with the roll-over effect and test both and present the result to your team, that always works for me with Norwegians, not sure about the Danes though. I heard that when aliens invade earth they will talk to humans in danish is that true?...kidding:))


If that was a CSS based styling then it is no big deal to add the effect, but I think it is not, it seems to me that the stylesheets are not created separately, i.e. no separation between content and presentation which is more bad for usability than the hovering effect, that is why the developing team are not welcoming your suggestions, I guess....


I have not heard or read anywhere that a hovering effect is a usability principle, where did you read that, responsiveness can be achieved through many ways even with sound, but to limit it in a hovering effect is a bit too much don't you think...I guess that is why they did not take you seriously may be, cuz sometimes hovering creates more problems than benefits and can be distracting too...it is comes back to good analysis for user needs, and testing testing testing my friend..is the decisive word....good luck...


kojo 

22 Dec 2010 - 2:05pm
bdore
2010

I can't say that a hover effect is an usability principle but I can say that clear distinction between what is clickable and what is not is definitely a principle.

"The hand" is critical. Without "the hand" the user can't tell it's clickable. Beyond that the user should be able to recognize what is clickable without hovering the mouse over it. That is the role of aesthetics in this question: design a button that looks like a button (very subjective), use underlined text and so on. To rely on the non-textual nature of the element is not enough for the user to recognize it as a clickable element.
[]'s
Bernardo

23 Dec 2010 - 3:34am
Ali Naqvi
2008

"The hand" is critical. Without "the hand" the user can't tell it's clickable. Beyond that the user should be able to recognize what is clickable without hovering the mouse over it.

Exactly.... thats my point. There is no "hand" nor any any visual indication that this sentence is clickable.

23 Dec 2010 - 3:27am
Ali Naqvi
2008

I suggest you do this, in a UCD based methodology user involvement in early stages is critical so why don't you conduct a user test to decide whether a hovering effect is required or not, create a second hi-fidelity model with the roll-over effect and test both and present the result to your team, that always works for me with Norwegians, not sure about the Danes though. I heard that when aliens invade earth they will talk to humans in danish is that true?...kidding:))

User testing will be done late 2011 Surprised Untill then usability testings based on heuristics is the only option.

If that was a CSS based styling then it is no big deal to add the effect, but I think it is not, it seems to me that the stylesheets are not created separately, i.e. no separation between content and presentation which is more bad for usability than the hovering effect, that is why the developing team are not welcoming your suggestions, I guess....

Thats what I told the programmer. But it seems to me that they are developing the site without a stylesheet. They just code here and there.

 have not heard or read anywhere that a hovering effect is a usability principle, where did you read that, responsiveness can be achieved through many ways even with sound, but to limit it in a hovering effect is a bit too much don't you think...I guess that is why they did not take you seriously may be, cuz sometimes hovering creates more problems than benefits and can be distracting too...it is comes back to good analysis for user needs, and testing testing testing my friend..is the decisive word....good luck...

If the navigation and site architecture aren’t intuitive, the number of question marks grows and makes it harder for users to comprehend how the system works and how to get from point A to point B. A clear structure, moderate visual clues and easily recognizable links can help users to find their path to their aim. taken from: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/01/31/10-principles-of-effective-web-design/

For this site, the hovering effect is ideal is important. Please take a look here for more on hovering:  http://baymard.com/blog/links-hover-state

I believe that it is essential to highlite buttons or links as the pointer moves across them to indicate that they are clickable. So a roll-over mouse is necessary and a blue link "could" be an option to show the user that this text is clickable.

Can you give me an example where hovering creates more problems than benefits?

Ali

23 Dec 2010 - 10:05pm
kojo
2008

Well, I am not sure that some web based blog written while some guy is sitting in a plane trying to consume time or in the lo, is the right source or littérateur for usability principles but anyhow...I say it again, it all comes back to user needs and a real analysis for users and their roles and relevant tasks.


In most cases the browser/operating system handles the cursor states from arrow to hand to text insertion bar as it detects the kind of control the mouse operation is directed upon, but in some cases that is lacked or needs some sort of emphasis and again we come back to user testing at early stage which i think is a mistake by that PM to delay it, you should be able to get early feedback, the earlier the easier to save the process.


bad examples of hovering effect:

  1. Google earth if you enable all layers of information in one spot
  2. Long or extended cascading drop-down menus that hide content beneath them take a look at the enhances ap.no and hover over alt innhold, now it has some degree of transparency to allow users to view what is beneath. 
  3. Those stupid extensible advertisements that expand once mouse-over and move the adjacent content or entirely cover it

and many more...so again it all depends on your way of profiling your user needs and testing your work in an iterative process...best of luck n happy holidays


kojo
On Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 12:18 PM, Ali Naqvi <Ali@amroha.dk> wrote:

I suggest you do this, in a UCD based methodology user involvement in early stages is critical so why don't you conduct a user test to decide whether a hovering effect is required or not, create a second hi-fidelity model with the roll-over effect and test both and present the result to your team, that always works for me with Norwegians, not sure about the Danes though. I heard that when aliens invade earth they will talk to humans in danish is that true?...kidding:))

User testing will be done late 2011  Untill then usability testings based on heuristics is the only option.

If that was a CSS based styling then it is no big deal to add the effect, but I think it is not, it seems to me that the stylesheets are not created separately, i.e. no separation between content and presentation which is more bad for usability than the hovering effect, that is why the developing team are not welcoming your suggestions, I guess....

Thats what I told the programmer. But it seems to me that they are developing the site without a stylesheet. They just code here and there.

 have not heard or read anywhere that a hovering effect is a usability principle, where did you read that, responsiveness can be achieved through many ways even with sound, but to limit it in a hovering effect is a bit too much don't you think...I guess that is why they did not take you seriously may be, cuz sometimes hovering creates more problems than benefits and can be distracting too...it is comes back to good analysis for user needs, and testing testing testing my friend..is the decisive word....good luck...

/If the navigation and site architecture aren’t intuitive, the number of question marks grows and makes it harder for users to comprehend how the system works and how to get from point A to point B. A clear structure, moderate visual clues and easily recognizable links can help users to find their path to their aim. taken from: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/01/31/10-principles-of-effective-web-design/ [1]/

For this site, the hovering effect is ideal is important. Please take a look here for more on hovering:  http://baymard.com/blog/links-hover-state [2]

I believe that it is essential to highlite buttons or links as the pointer moves across them to indicate that they are clickable. So a roll-over mouse is necessary and a blue link "could" be an option to show the user that this text is clickable.

Can you give me an example where hovering creates more problems than benefits?

Ali

(((Please leave al
22 Dec 2010 - 11:05am
a2slbailey
2010
The project manager told me that he has to satisfy alot of people, and that usability has a minor priority compared to aestetics...

  Sadly, this is an attitude I have encountered a lot. I once had a project manager tell me that her project was "too important and mission critical to spend time on usability."   sb

23 Dec 2010 - 5:46am
shetty
2010

I am afraid hover will be a major usability issue.. apart from that there are other parameters like 'navigation' which effects 90% of usability, any way convincing the development team is a challege you can cross over by presenting the business impact by not implementing the usability .Smile

23 Dec 2010 - 8:50pm
C K Vijay Bhaskar
2009

Interesting discussion. I noticed that in the picture that has been provided by Ali, the alphabets are of different color. A, B, D are grayed out and C is in a different color - indicating that it has been selected. So, the 'post-selection' seems to confirm to usability principles, but when it comes to the issue of pre-selection, then we also need to look at two other aspects - one is visual cues - It is but natural that the sequence of response would always be A > B > C etc. So, confusion on sequencing has been avoided. The image provided only displays only one radio button under each option (not sure if it is the need or just a mock-up for a future implementation). I am forced to assume that may be the pop up will appear when the use clicks on the radio button.

The other aspect is what is the goal of the design? I dont understand the language that has been put in the picture by Ali, but if  the goal of the design is to have forced interaction with the end user, where the user is either trained or is to call the support to help in response, then the forced 'bad' usability will become a good design. Unless the "big picture" is seen, it would be difficult to conclude on the need of the hover effect. 

Just my thoughts - hope this helps. 

27 Dec 2010 - 2:54am
Ali Naqvi
2008

 am forced to assume that may be the pop up will appear when the use clicks on the radio button.

Hello Vijay thanks for responding,

a pop-up won't appear. It will expand and the text will be seen. If you click on the arrow again, the box will shrink to the previous state.

 

Ali

 

27 Dec 2010 - 2:42am
Ali Naqvi
2008

Well, I am not sure that some web based blog written while some guy is sitting in a plane trying to consume time or in the lo, is the right source or littérateur for usability principles but anyhow..

:)

I say it again, it all comes back to user needs and a real analysis for users and their roles and relevant tasks.

I still personally believe that a hover effect is the best to use in a list with many options to choose. Maybe an eye tracking study of this could show us something?

In most cases the browser/operating system handles the cursor states from arrow to hand to text insertion bar as it detects the kind of control the mouse operation is directed upon, but in some cases that is lacked or needs some sort of emphasis and again we come back to user testing at early stage which i think is a mistake by that PM to delay it, you should be able to get early feedback, the earlier the easier to save the process.

I totally agree.

Long or extended cascading drop-down menus that hide content beneath them take a look at the enhances ap.no and hover over alt innhold, now it has some degree of transparency to allow users to view what is beneath.

I believe that the problem lies with the designer. It is not the hover affect itself that is a bad choise here, but rather the way it has been implemented by the designer. We as designers should have (some actually don't) the ability to create/design "something" useful and with optimal usage, even with limites ressources.

www.ap.no's drop-down menu could have a transparent dropdown background, and this would solve the problem.

and many more...so again it all depends on your way of profiling your user needs and testing your work in an iterative process...best of luck n happy holidays

You too! :)

27 Dec 2010 - 5:48pm
Mathew Sanders
2009

It sounds like you're working as a resource to the team (rather than a full time member) in which case you've been asked to provide a report on usability problems with this application.

Unfortunately, often in this role you will not have full power to make decisions, but you can still act as a positive influence.

In your report, identify the problems that you encountered, and clearly identify any consequences that could be expected from this. To make them easier to digest (and to implement solutions) rank then in an order of severity.

For problems that have obvious solutions (like the problem you've described where items lack an affordance they can be clicked) list some potential solutions and grab an hour with a developer familiar with the project to get a rough estimate of how much effort it will take to implement these solutions - then create an effort/impact matrix to communicate possible actions with your project manager (this is a tool they will be familiar with and feel confidant reviewing and communicating).

As other posters have commented - I don't understand the purpose or goals of this application - but my initial thoughts are that the amount of text shown expanded is minimal, maybe it would be better to remove the click-to-reveal functionality all together and just show content exposed by default.

 

29 Dec 2010 - 5:02pm
Ghalib Mansoor
2008

"As other posters have commented - I don't understand the purpose or goals of this application - but my initial thoughts are that the amount of text shown expanded is minimal, maybe it would be better to remove the click-to-reveal functionality all together and just show content exposed by default."

Mathew, great :-), its a kind of non issue, i guess.

And thanks to all the contributors for a very useful and interesting dialogue.

Ghalib

30 Dec 2010 - 11:59am
Ali Naqvi
2008

maybe it would be better to remove the click-to-reveal functionality all together and just show content exposed by default.

The attachment is only a minor part of the entire site. I cropped the image.If we show the content, the site will bombard the user with tons of info....We don't want the user to leave the site due to tons of info.

 

Ali

30 Dec 2010 - 11:59am
Ali Naqvi
2008

maybe it would be better to remove the click-to-reveal functionality all together and just show content exposed by default.

The attachment is only a minor part of the entire site. I cropped the image.If we show the content, the site will bombard the user with tons of info....We don't want the user to leave the site due to tons of info.

 

Ali

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