Tuesday, May 22, 2007

User Expectations

Bill Higgins has recently written a fantastic post titled, "The Uncanny Valley of User Interface Design". He discusses how people have a basic mental model of how things should appear, and when they differ from that mental model, we reject them.

He has a great example of this concerning the lack of an explosion of Java GUI apps:

"My own experience with using Java GUI apps of the late 1990s was that they were slow and they looked and behaved weirdly vs. standard Windows (or Mac or Linux) applications. That’s because they weren’t true Windows/Mac/Linux apps. They were Java Swing apps which emulated Windows/Mac/Linux apps. Despite the herculean efforts of the Swing designers and implementers, they couldn’t escape the Uncanny Valley of emulated user interfaces."

He's definitely on to something. This got me thinking about user expectations, and how yet another thing a pursuer of quality must keep in mind is this difficult to quantity quality. The sort of je ne sais quoi of a web or desktop app that maybe meets all requirements, but just doesn't feel right. Sorry, was that french phrase a bit too pretentious? I couldn't find a better phrase to use. It had a sort of je ne sais quoi about it.

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