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Simplicity and choices for users

I’ve been following a pretty interesting discussion that’s been happening about the new Start menu on Windows Vista. You can see it below. See anything weird?

Well, Joel comments: Choices = Headaches.

Then, hilariously, one of the guys who worked on Windows at Microsoft (and now is at Google) comments on how it ended up this way.

And of course, finally, this is how the Mac OS X shutdown process ended up happening, from an Apple guy.

It reminds me of a discussion in Designing Interactions about the “Zen of Palm” and how important it is to make things easy for the user based on what they want, rather than a big menu of items. Here’s an anecdote:

If you think about the way your desk is organized, you have some
things on your desk, and some things in your drawers. Why is that?
The things on top of your desk are there because you want to access
them very frequently. Imagine if you had your mouse, or your phone,
or something that you access very frequently, and you put it in your
drawer. Every time you wanted to use it, you’d have to pull it out of
your drawer. It might be only one more step, and it might be only
one second, but it would really drive you crazy over the course of a
day.

Think about your stapler and staple remover. My stapler is on top
of my desk, and my staple remover is in my drawer. The reason is that
I staple papers more frequently than I unstaple them. You can argue
that architecturally speaking the stapler and staple remover are
equivalent and therefore should be in the same place. If you look at
it intuitively and ask what you do more frequently, some of these
decisions just naturally bubble up to the top. It all depends on
understanding your customers, but not on a very complex level. It is
not rocket science to suggest that you would be more likely to enter
a new phone number than to delete one.

Anyway, I’m sure the start menu ended up the way it was, described as “the lowest common denominator” because it presented all the possible options, “logically,” rather than needing to make choices about what a user really would want.

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