As I mentioned in my inaugural column, “Envisioning the Future of User Experience,” I often have difficulty remembering where I put my digital documents and files. It takes considerable cognitive effort to maintain a mental map of my computer’s nested folder structure, and inconsistencies creep into my folder structure as a result of the on-the-fly taxonomic decisions I make when filing things away.
There’s got to be a better way of keeping track of our digital stuff than this decades-old organization scheme.
Google, with the laudable mission of organizing the world’s information, has created desktop tools for content retrieval. Microsoft and Apple, too, have added desktop search capabilities to their latest operating systems. But let’s face it: Keyword search happens after the fact. Search tools help us to find our stuff after we’ve already lost it. They don’t help us organize our stuff.
And with some of us dragging around twenty or more years of digital stuff from one personal computer to another—documents, pictures, what have you—only the most determined and organized of us have their digital files organized in a way that facilitates rapid findability—in a file structure that is easily remembered and traversed.
I blame the file/folder metaphor for this rampant problem. It’s no longer up to the tasks we’re attempting to accomplish using it. I think there are better ways for us to organize our digital stuff. Read More
Imagine, if you will, that you’re working for a small Web-application startup. For the sake of argument, let’s say the company wants to build a Web-based application to help product marketers and brand managers—the primary user group—manage and maintain the digital assets for their company’s products and services.
Further assume the application would also allow users to publish updated digital collateral to the distribution channel—that is, resellers such as retail stores and ecommerce sites who sell a company’s products.
The startup has asked you to create a user interface for this Web application, and you’ve struggled for weeks to come up with an elegant, efficient way for users to quickly and efficiently upload, manage, and publish a wide variety of digital collateral, including product box shots, spec sheets, warranties, coupons, rebates, and so on. Read More
In this column, I want to further explore one of the issues I mentioned in my inaugural column. I call it the problem of the perpetual super-novice. What is this? Simply put, it’s the tendency of people to stop learning about a digital product—whether it’s an operating system, desktop application, Web site, or hardware device.
After initially becoming somewhat familiar with a system, people often continue using the same inefficient, time-consuming styles of interaction they first learned. For example, they fail to discover shortcuts and accelerators in the applications they use. Other people learn only a small portion of a product’s capabilities and, as a result, don’t realize the full benefits the product offers. Why? What can operating systems, applications, Web sites, and devices do to better facilitate a person’s progression from novice to expert usage? Read More