The principles of gestalt were not the first thing that immediately came to my mind when I thought of usability. However, that is exactly where it belongs. Breaking down your information into components that follows the principles of gestalt allows the user to use the “directions” given by the design. The designer can tell your brain what to look at next without you having to write text instructions, which can take away from aesthetic appeal. Any interface designer should recognize the principles of gestalt and check that their design takes them into mind. The delightful thing about the principles of gestalt is that it only takes a simple illustration for the viewer to be able to understand exactly what the principle is discussing. So it can help the designer to break their design into the visual principles.
Visual attention also helps to focus a designer on what is necessary to direct their viewer. The second reading points out that researchers propose attention selects perceptual objects rather than. Viewers can really only concentrate on one object at a time so a designer cannot create too many focal points. A designer cannot try to draw attention to every item on the page. If they have a Home page button that flashes, an image of a monkey that says click here for bananas, and a next page button in glittering neon colors the viewer is going to be overwhelmed and not be able to pay attention. Their attention is being drawn in too many places. They also will be annoyed because the aesthetics have to go out the window in order for a designer to try and draw attention to everything at once. Proper aesthetics encourage only one item to be the focus of a design. That doesn’t mean a designer cannot draw any attention to other objects but there should only really be one main focus per page. (Highlander yell, “There can only be ONE!!”) What is the goal of the page? This is what a designer should always keep in mind. Direct attention to your goals utilizing concepts of visual attention.
Information foraging theory attempts to describe how viewers gather data about what they are viewing. The author, David Trespass, states, “The basis of foraging theory is a cost and benefit assessment of achieving a goal where cost is the amount of resources consumed when performing a chosen activity and the benefit is what is gained from engaging in that activity.” He then goes on to directly discuss how this theory effects interface design by writing, “Poor mark-up reduces our ability to search for content and increases the amount of browsing behaviour that is determined based on the results of fallible image and video analysis technologies.” If it takes to long to find information, the user will give up. If the user were a hungry tiger, they would starve because the prey ran so fast and hid so well. Another article points out that while a viewer wouldn’t starve, viewers are/can be lazy and if a designer wants them to get the information, they have to make certain the viewer has to put forth little effort and be benefited by the effort.
The UX Book reading focused on UX design Guidelines. It started out with an introduction to the overall concept with some of the background, went on to discuss how to use and interpret design guidelines and ended with a description about human memory limitations. I felt that reading this book last of the other readings helped sort of present a clear picture of what I had read before by retouching on human cognition and giving a background. I did find one statement to be quite useful even if it’s actually a vague answer. The authors friend Jim Foley was asked about what was right and wrong in UX design he replied, “The only correct answer to an UX design is: It depends.” Every instance is new and can really only use past examples as a guideline, not a rule. I look forward to reading more instances that describe this “it depends” on UX design choices.
So how does this all translate to usability design? We read about design principles that can help shape our designs but can’t really tell us how to design. They simply tell us how we view things and leave the direction up to the designer. You can arrange your content in whatever way you like but if you do not follow those concepts and understand human memory, the content is not going to be delivered in an efficient manner. The user may even not bother trying to get to the information if their needs are ignored. So, overall, a rather enjoyable set of reading that I look forward to discussing in class.
This is a tough week, I am so happy to read “enjoyable set of readings” in your post! So, you’re sure you don’t want to stay on for a PhD 😉 ?