Let’s Talk UI Design: The Final Heuristic, Help and Documentation

Ladies and Gentlemen thank you for reaching this final stage of the Heuristic Series.  Up until this point I hope all the information I’ve shared with you will aid all of your future endeavors.  Today we’ll be discussing Jakob Nielsen’s 10th heuristic, Help and Documentation.  For this post I’ll just be using a generic created example.

Alright, quick recap:

Help and documentation

Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user’s task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.”

question  

Alright if it’s needed, provide some help.  DO IT ONLY IF IT’S NEEDED THOUGH.  Make it to where it’s easy to find, and of course relatable.  Putting a “?” Bubble next to a search box is an example.

Alright, so let’s for example say you will place a search box in a location where (after rigorous User Research and Data analyzing) you know that this is the optimal place to put it for users to know what it’s for.  Knowing this, you also know that some error can still occur.  So you include next to the search box a help button (Recognition rather than recall in use above!) that, when rolled over or hit, will pop up a little tidbit on what the box is for.

So what’s the importance of this?

We as designers cannot stop every single issue that pops up.  Sometimes when we do something for our main target audience we register that this can still cause some issues with another target audience.  Even if we compromise, sometimes there will still be errors.  So when it’s necessary yes, do add a little help and documentation. It might just go a long way. Ah…and emphasis on little.

 

——User First, Designer Second——

Let’s Talk UI Design: Heuristic 9, Help Users Recognize, Diagnose, and Recover From Errors

Annnnd we’re off!

Ladies and Gentlemen today we’re gonna be talking about Jakob Nielsen’s Heuristic 9:  Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors.  I’ll be using Beats Music’s sign up form as the example of choice.

So, recap:

Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.” 

beats

Umm….if there is an error, then the people need to know it.  Don’t over-complicate it, seriously.  Highlighting the text box with the error and saying “Oops, wrong password” is more than enough.  Or, even just highlighting the box and using an “X” if that is effective.

Beats Music smoothly used this heuristic in their login form above.

Let’s say for example a user inserts just the first part of his or her email address (sayianfred@, that’s it).  Once the user hits the sign up button the email box glows a bright red outline (excellent contrast), a bright red exclamation point appears (Recognition Rather Than Recall) followed by an off-white message stating that a valid email address is required.

That’s all that’s needed.  With this information the user quickly registers the error, checks his or her email address in the highlighted box, and effectively correct the mistake.  Flawless.

So…why’s this important?

People are not wired for reading, nor do they like being confused.  A mile-long paragraph dictating that “The inserted query did not register correctly in database 52BLAH BLAH BLAH” is useless to a user.  Above all, that’d make them feel stupid.  People do not want to feel this way.  As a designer it is up to you to answer a user’s error with only the feedback that’s necessary to recover from the error.

——User First, Designer Second——

Let’s Talk UI Design: Heuristic 7, Flexibility and Efficiency of Use

IT. IS  COLD.

Just thought I’d get that off the chest here.  Hello again everyone!  Today we shall be discussing the seventh heuristic in Jakob Nielsen‘s 10 Heuristics of User Interface Design:  Flexibility and Efficiency of Use.  So this time I’ll be using Facebook as an example.

Ok, so to recap:

Flexibility and efficiency of use

Accelerators — unseen by the novice user — may often speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions. “

facebook

Some people have more experience than others.  Allow shortcuts in your design for these people, because they know what they need and how to get to it.  Facebook keeping you logged in, or even messaging a friend on Facebook are two good examples.

Now as much as I have with Facebook, this heuristic was excellently put into play.  On your personal profile page, Facebook provides a Friends tab where you can find your friends and do whatever you need (checking profile, shooting a message).  It’s an excellent tool, one that Facebook really thrives off of.  OK, so let’s say I just wanted to send a friend a message.  Instead of diving in click after click to find my friend in the Friend’s tab I could use this nice right panel Facebook has so nicely provided for me that takes one, maybe two clicks.

This is a perfect tool for me, as I am a seasoned Facebook user who really only comes to Facebook for one or two items.  Now, for those who have different goals than I do may use the Friends Tab, but for me who is a user focused on what I need I have the flexibility to choose.

Alright, so importance?

Users are different.  Some users are savvy with an interface, some are not.  Some users have one set of goals, others have a different set.  As a designer, it’s important that you understand that inside your target audience will lie users of these categories.  You cannot design something for everyone, but you can design something effectively for users in your target audience on both sides of the spectrum.

 

——User First, Designer Second—— 

LET’S TALK UI DESIGN: HEURISTIC 6, Recognition Rather than Recall

Good evening ladies and gents!  Today I’ll be delving into Jakob Nielsen‘s Heuristic 6, Recognition Rather that Recall.  Now, this one is REALLY important (I mean they all are), so I want you to pay attention to this one.  I’ll be using an example I used before: Amazon Shopping Cart.

Let’s recap:

Recognition rather than recall

Minimize the user’s memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.” 

amazonBar

REMEMBER THIS ONE.  REALLY.  People do not like to read.  So…don’t force them to. People can recognize certain symbols simply because that’s what they’ve learned.  Using a house symbol as “Home” or using a Cart symbol as “Cart” for example. A progress bar’s position is another example.

Amazon exceeds expectations well with their checkout process bar.  The long orange bar above the steps with a black cart at end signifies how far you have come in the entire process and where you are now.  The slightly lighter steps (sign in, shipping & payment, gift options) show what have been completed up to this point.  The darker step (along with the cart) displays your position in the checkout process.  Even just the cart icon displays your place in the entire website (e.g. checkout process).  Excellent usage of this heuristic.

Alright, so why is this important?

Ladies and gentlemen, People do not like to read, and recognition is easier than recall.  Think about this for a sec:  reading “View Cart” on a button takes time to go into your head, processing, then an understanding to occur.  That’s a four step process.  That’s hard.  If there is simply an icon of a cart, that registers in a person’s mind as “cart” and immediate understanding occurs.  One to two step process.  See the difference?

Don’t make recognizing something inside an interface harder than recalling what it could mean.  As a designer, you need to create something that comes second nature to a user, or easily taught.

——User First, Designer Second——

Let’s Talk UI Design: Heuristic 5, Error Prevention

Well hello there everyone!  Today is a beautiful day to post a blog on Heuristic 5 in Jakob Nielsen‘s Heuristics, Error Prevention.  I’ll be going more into the example from my overview post.  Alright, let’s get started!

So, quick recap:

Error prevention

 Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.”

Alright, if you can create a design that pushes for no errors, then that would be epic and very good.  Shoot for that.  Otherwise, if an error does occur, THEN REALLY ASK A USER IF THEY WANT TO DO THAT. For example, accidentally selecting “Delete” instead of rename in Dropbox.

Ladies and gentlemen, I chose Dropbox as a prime example of this heuristic.  Dropbox executes well on two ends of this heuristic:  careful design and error confirmation.

dropbox2

The overall page itself presents to you exactly as is:  file storage.  The design is pretty simplistic and clean.  One can easily contrast which file is being hovered over and what file type each file is.  The spacing around each file is padded enough to avoid clicking on the wrong item.  Excellent use of space!

Now…for the error confirmation….

dropbox

Ok, let’s say upon going through the list of options over a specific file (e.g. share, download, copy)  you move a bit too quickly and accidentally hit delete.  Think about that for a second:  what if you deleted that 4 month project you just finished?

Dropbox seamlessly acquits that fear.  Upon an accidental click, a user is prompted with the message above “Are you sure you want to delete…”.  The message is titled with a red remove mark (aha…recognition rather than recall) and in big bold letters “Delete file?”.  Popups can be pretty annoying, but using one in this case is expertly done, as this is a “HEY, LOOK WHAT YOU’RE ABOUT TO DO” situation.

So, the big importance?

People do not like to think, and are prone to errors.  Again, people make mistakes as they are performing actions.  Maybe a wrong link was clicked or a wrong item was selected.  People will panic if there is no way to undo a mistake.  As a designer, it is your job to 1.) create something that can avoid getting to an error point and 2.) Have a backup plan just in case the other methods don’t work.

———–User First, Designer Second———–

Let’s Talk UI Design: Heuristic 4, Consistency and Standards

Hello there, everyone!  Today we shall be talking more about Jakob Nielsen‘s fourth UI heuristic, Consistency and Standards. For this one, I’ll be using a new example than from my post before, and that is the one and only Google.

So, here’s what I spoke about before:

Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions”.

Don’t you dare use two different ways to describe one thing on the same screen!  BAD, BAD, BAD!  If your navigation item says “Portfolio”, then the page title should be “Portfolio”, the url should say “Portfolio”, and the browser tab should say “Portfolio”.

Okay, okay.  I know I was a little eccentric, but there’s a method to my madness!

google

Alright, so I’m pretty sure most of you recognize this website here.  Google displays an excellent example of this heuristic in play.  The name of the website is right in the middle of the page.  The tab in the upper left corner has the name of the website (Google).  Even the url displays the name of the website.  Everywhere you look, you know you are on Google.  Excellent, excellent use.

Now, why is this of importance?

Users hone in their goal.  Everything else is scannable.  Without clear consistency, users will become confused, frustrated, or lost.  People will focus on the information that relates to their goal, and scan across everything else.  One wrong design aspect along a user’s workflow can cause massive confusion for someone.  It’s already hard to know exactly where you are in an interface.  Do not generate even more confusion when you have the power to lessen it.  Keep it consistent.

Side note:  this is not the only place you can apply this heuristic.  If you have anymore examples please feel free to share!

——-User First, Designer Second——–