Multiplicity

All day I’ve been seeing the same post from my friends on facebook: Please do me a favor, just hover over my name and click a few things so that you won’t see my comments to other posts in your ticker window.

I finally got the point where I realized how silly this whole thing is and came to a decision point: Am I really going to do this on all of my friends’ posts and ask them to do the same for me?  What if I had over 1000 friends like some people I know?  I seem to recall that before the latest changes, I might comments from my friends, just not on posts by people that aren’t my friends.

Anyway, the real point is that this whole thing is backwards.  What’s the point in my sending you a message, asking you to do something so you can’t see what I’m writing somewhere else?  Shouldn’t I have the control over this, not you?  This whole fiasco is pointing out a flaw in the user interface for facebook – at least as far as their users are concerned.  The people who run facebook are probably perfectly happy with how they set it up, but with all of the posts regarding this, they may be rethinking their decision.

So, how does this affect you and your decisions in your work?  The first question to ask yourself when producing something for public use, be it a software application, website, phone menu, ATM, etc., is to consider two things: proper default values and minimal interactions.

Choosing proper default values means that you decide, possibly with the input of your user test group, what the most likely choice will be for a particular option, then make that choice the default.  If done correctly, your users won’t even need to know there’s a choice, since you’re already doing the right thing in their minds.

Minimal interactions is what this facebook issue really brings up.  How many people are going to have to click on how many buttons to accomplish what they want to do?  The more clicks and the more people who have to worry about them, the more disgruntled your users become.  Of course, we always want to provide our users the most flexibility and that often means making multiple choices along the way, but if your users have to repeat the same operations or there’s a most likely path, either storing their preferences or providing a shortcut will make them happy.  And instead of complaining, they’ll tell others how easy it is to use your application.