The Thinkers OmniScribe Consulting
P.O. Box 37570
South Africa
Local Fax: 031 813 401
International Fax: 27 31 813 401

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OmniScribe acknowledges that the field of HCI (or usability as it is sometimes called) is filled with apparant contradictions and we include strategies within our analysis methodology which attempts to resolve these contradictions and necessary trade-offs. Very few hard-and-fast rules exist in HCI that do not have some exceptions. OmniScribe always aims for the best possible solution within a project's constraints. The OmniScribe approach is best summarised by paraphrasing these slogans from Jakob Nielsen's excellent book "Usability Engineering".

Your Best Guess Is Not Good Enough
Users will always perform their job in a way different to what you assumed and will make unexpected interpretations of your user interface.

The User Is Always Right
Cultivate humility and acknowledge the need to modify your interface design to accommodate the user's problems.

The User Is Not Always Right
Users have a hard time predicting how they will interact with a potential future system thus they often will not know what is good for them.

Users Are Not Designers
Do not rely on user customization as the main element in an interface design. A good default interface is needed to support novice users.

Designers Are Not Users
Do not rely on your own intuition about user interface issues. What may look perfectly sensible to you in matters of screen design or error messages may be totally incomprehensible to a user without the same understanding of the system.

Vice Presidents Are Not Users
Corporate executives are not representative of the end user (with the exception of management information systems and software intended for corporate executives). All design suggestions from this quarter should be welcomed as seeds for inspiration, but meddling in user interface design should be discouraged.

Less Is More
Fewer options often means better usability as the decision making burden on the user is reduced. One thousand optional "features" are useless if the user only uses ten.

Details Matter
Minor details often have a usability impact all out of proportion to their size or importance in the scale of things. These must be ferreted out and addressed.

Help Doesn't
The ideal interface will not need help at all. When online help is incorporated it should be relevant and brief and not exist as a mass of unfriendly documentation where answers are difficult to find and may be misinterpreted when they are.

Usability Engineering Is Process
A one-size-fits-all approach to HCI design is bad. Each project is different, and each final user interface will look different, but the activities (process) needed to arrive at a good result are fairly constant. HCI (usability) is a process, not a product.


Links Of Possible Interest

HCI Standards and Guidelines

* Usability and Human Factors Sites

* Usability Sciences Corporation - Hot Links

* HCI Tutorial

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