OSCON 2006: When Interface Design Attacks

Amy Hoy is the author of a Ruby on Rails- and design-oriented blog, Slash7.

I was amazed to see how packed this session was. They propped the doors open, and people were actually standing around outside the door trying to listen. It was really good to see that so many developers are looking for a way to make their interfaces more usable.

Amy started off with some really good, basic points to keep in mind:


1. People have expectations about how stuff on the Web works (e.g., navigation sidebars, ignoring ads, etc.)
2. Users ‘satisfice’ or give up. (‘Satisficing’ is where users will accept the first option that’s workable rather
that holding out for what’s optimal.)
3. Users scan rather than reading — many users will not scroll
4. Lots of people on the Web have low literacy

She also gave some simple principles to follow:

1. Text — keep it simple, break it up, highlight key text, use headings and lists
2. Forms — put labels on top, not to the left of form elements, break forms into sections
3. Buttons — Make it hard to click them accidentally, don’t put ‘delete’ right next to ‘cancel,’ describe results in clear English

She ended off with a really good suggestion — ask your users for feedback, but take it with a grain of salt. “People don’t know what they want. They just think they do.”

Amy has her slides available online here.