Reading Commentary for (2/14/2013)Allowing the Necessary to Speak

A couple of things struck me as interesting in regards to the abbreviated reading this week.  One (and forgive me for again drawing a parallel to my world of presentation theory) is that several of the “usability principles” outlined in Table 2 (p.20) directly correlate to principles of presentation theory.  I have 3 principles that an effective presentation should always demonstrate in its content, design, and delivery.  (Maybe I should call them “Sy’s Presentation Heuristics”.)  Specifically, they are “simplicity”, “story”, and “ownership”.  Table 2’s: “simple and natural dialogue”, “minimize the users’ memory load”, and “consistency”, correlate almost perfectly to my principle of “simplicity” that seeks to minimize the cognitive load of the presentation audience through consistency of design and through the optimization of what Garr Reynolds refers to as the “signal-to-noise ratio” (Reynolds, 2008) namely removing anything that does not directly and positively contribute to achieving the presentation objective.  This principle is best summarized by a quote from a late 19th/early 20th century Bavarian painter, Hans Hoffman: 
The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” (Hans Hoffman Quotes, n.d.)  
Like an effective presentation, an effective and usable interface clearly must contain only what is necessary for the user to understand what is needed to achieve the objective and eliminate, or never add, anything “unnecessary”.

Two others, give me pause.  It concerns me a little that the author seems to be suggesting that severity ratings are the somewhat exclusive domain of usability experts and that users, while part of the process, seemed to be relegated to the area of “testing”.  This would seem to me to run the danger of producing “ivory tower” design suggestions.  The author, in other sections recommends more than one usability expert for this process because no single expert can identify all the usability issues.  I would think, the user, is in a good position to identify the issues that perhaps the “Good King Wenceslaus’s” cannot see when looking down on their respective feasts of Stephen.

Also, on one hand I can understand the value of breaking up longer valuation sessions for complicated interfaces.  However, could one not run into the danger of missing interface issues that result from the overall holistic structure of the needed interface?  It would depend, I suppose, on how much of the overall interface tasks must be performed as a single continuous series.  The more that the steps must be performed in continuity, the more. It would seem to me that continuity would need to be maintained during the evaluation process.  And if the process is too long or complex to affectively be evaluated in a single sitting as a continuous series…well…doesn’t that in and of itself say something about the overall usability of the interface?

Works Cited

Hans Hoffman Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved 2 14, 2013, from Hans Hoffman:

Reynolds, G. (2008). Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery. Berkeley, CA, USA: New Riders.


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