The other day I was leaving a deli and the door out to the street had a handle on it. Naturally I pulled on the handle despite the bright blue sign on the door that said 'Push'. While I was able to work the door correctly on my second try (which I hope shouldn't surprise you), this got me thinking about the comic strip, the Far Side, and specifically one comic about one particular child attending the Midvale School for the Gifted.
Gary Larson, the comic's author, got it right on this piece. The door is clearly labelled 'Pull', and the handle on the door is a handle for pulling. That the child is pushing on the door even given the double reinforcement of label and handle is proof of his “gifted” status.
Ideally we would not be expected to rely on the door's label to know what to do with it. I rarely if ever look for a label unless I need to. Given that the door could have been locked in this situation, the label (along with a trial and error style process) helped me to realize that 'Push' was the appropriate action, even though this side of the door was not adorned with the full length bar that usually signals for a push.
How does this relate to the web? A web application is liberally dotted with controls. Snooth itself makes use of buttons, text boxes, sliders and links to help a user navigate the site. If we consider each feature as the door to a delicatessen, we need to put a bar if the user should push and a handle if the user should pull. Metaphors aside, the links should look like links, the buttons should be clearly labelled, and all of the controls need to sit in the proper intuitive place on the page. If a user wants to submit a search, they should not have to hunt for the place to do so. Similarly if you find yourself on the details page of a wine you've already tasted, it should not be difficult to discover where to rate and review that wine.
It is hardly an option to put text labels all over the site, for example writing "Click here" next to every link and button. We do try to employ a subtle rollover for more esoteric features (Suggest a missing vintage for example), but for core functionality it would clutter the site to describe what is going on in prose at all times. It would also cause users to leave the site as quickly as they arrived. Rarely does one get a second chance to make a first impression. At least, we don't want to expect that we will get that chance.
It makes sense to view usability with a critical eye and to listen to feedback from users. We've done usability testing on the site, but we hope to do more in the future. If we can minimize the confusion on the site to those select "gifted" users, I feel we will have done our jobs correctly.
As always, we welcome your comments either here on the blog, in the forum or through the contact form on the site. Please let us know what we can do to make Snooth as user friendly as possible!
The Push and Pull of Web Usability
- Blog comment by The Push and Pull of Web Usability, Jul 4, 2007.
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- Reply by Philip James, Jul 4, 2007.
Mark - welcome to the blog! first post of many i hope...
- Blog comment by PlugIM.com, Jul 12, 2007.
The push and pull of web usability...
The other day I was leaving a deli and the door out to the street had a handle on it. Naturally I pulled on the handle despite the bright blue sign on the door that said ‘Push’. While I was able to work the door correctly on my second try (which I ...