Intuition and convention in the User Interface
Rubén Gómez has a good thoughtful post on Bible Software Review
about the claim made by sellers that Bible software is "intuitive"
. Largely I agree with his points, but I'd like to nuance a bit. For example, Rubén wrote:
Our starting point should probably be the fact that there is no standard or normal way of doing things. There are different, equally acceptable ways in which individuals perform the same tasks. Ideally, Bible software should offer a high enough degree of customization, so that most people could feel comfortable using it.
Now, customisation is doubtless a great thing - for the relatively small proportion of users who invest enough time to benefit. But to say that standard ways of doing things do not exist is not quite right. For software there are a huge number of conventions that have developed - just think of what you expect to find in the |File| menu... Aside from convention
there is no reason why Print| should be here rather than in one called e.g. |View|. (Whose very existence is another convention!)
Even on the web (much more fluid - because more recent - than software) there are such conventions. Any software that flouts these conventions is NOT intuitive, even if the new way it creates is "better".
And lastly, with a thank-you to to Rubén for his useful links here are a couple focusing on conventions and web design (I know a slightly different topic - but each to their 'last'.)
- Jakob Neilsen has a predictably well-researched but trenchant piece in AlertBox Sept 2004 on "The Need for Web Design Standards" which suggests the nature of these de facto "standards"
- The second edition of the Web Style Guide both discusses the need for conventions in the "preface", and - of course - outlines some (and others that "should" be ;)
- For anyone new to the very idea of conventions in web design Arpecop has an unsigned piece on the general notion of "Design conventions, and the benefits of following web design conventions"