Not long ago I was reviewing the usability of a client’s application, including a “status list”; the first thing that caught my attention was the amount of status available and the illegibility of the ‘lights’ identifying the status.
Having researched colour vision deficiency in the past, it was very obvious to me that these status indicators were not only impractical, but also they were not complying with accessibility best practices and laws (US Section 508).
The colour selection was random and unplanned and the visual treatment was not helping either. The design was trying to add some volume to the ‘status lights’ with light and shadow, making the colour even more confusing. Finally, the page was too busy, using more lights than a Christmas tree.
After discussing this with the client, he confessed an embarrassing situation while presenting the software to a potential client; someone in the audience pointed out that he couldn’t see the ‘status’ that he was talking about.
What to do:
Thinking about Usability and Accessibility doesn’t mean compromising on the result, but including these requirements in the design process.
First of all, always keep in mind that colour-only is not a good identifier. We all perceive colour in different ways and many people may have serious difficulties understanding your message. Forget the ‘traffic light’ concept. Although we are used to the message, this is not the most user-friendly approach.
Review the colours you are using and test different values/hues to achieve a clear contrast in the absence of colour.
Use a combination of colour and symbols to identify your status indicators.
Finally, reduce the clutter.
- Do you really need all these status indicators?
- Can the status list be simplified to have a cleaner screen?
- Do you really need a status indicator when everything is OK?
After all, when driving, you don’t have a green-blinking light in your car dashboard indicating that everything is OK.
Some thoughts on why companies should utilize more the new channels of communication in their marketing efforts.
Consumer behavior has changed and the old school channels of communication are rapidly losing power. Today, consumers fast-forward TV commercials, immediately recycle flyers and junk mail, read their news form the web and find the closest restaurant using their mobile devices. They can choose which marketing messages they receive and from whom, and they expect to be involved in the conversation.
The new school marketing delivers what today’s consumers want: Relevant, interactive communication through their channels of choice.
The following chart outlines some of the differences between Old School Marketing and New School Marketing.
It is common to find a simple Telephone Number field with a set of instructions attached to it: “Please don’t use spaces, dashes or brackets”… “Use brackets, don’t use spaces”… “Area code in brackets, no spaces”.
Yes, the database expects a clear format and this is very important, but the user shouldn’t have to pay for it.
All forms and specific fields should be designed taking a user-friendly approach, utilizing client side scripting to format the data, no matter how the user inputs the information.
Using the telephone example, the user should be allowed to input dashes, spaces, brackets; the script will strip these characters sending only the information needed.
Other alternative is to use a multi-field format with properly labeled and sized fields, and scripting to allow the user to continuously type the information by jumping from one field to the next one once the field is completed.
As a last note, don’t wait until the user fills the complete form to provide feedback, immediate validation is necessary to offer a positive user experience.
I was recently presented with a web application for evaluation and I was surprised to see that what we think as a “Usability Basic Principle” was poorly executed. The use of “You Are Here” indicators.
It is important to let the users know at all times where they are. A user may lose track while browsing through your website or using your application and unless they know where they are, they will abandon the task and leave your site… frustrated!
What to do:
- Display a Clear Page Title – Use the highest visual hierarchy for the title in your content and always present it in the same place.
- Indicate the Location in the Navigation – Highlight/differentiate in the Menu and Sub-menus where the user is.
Other ways to let the user know their location in your site:
- Use Breadcrumbs – Breadcrumbs are a powerful navigation tool that also help communicate where users are in relationship with the rest of the site/application and the path they took to get where they are now.
- Use Progress Indicators – Let users know their progress during a process or while filling a multiple-page form.