Usability for Nerds/User profile
Before starting to design a product you may need to make a profile of the users and the situation of use:
- Will each user use the product as a daily routine or only occasionally?
- Does each user have their own specimen of the product or are many users using the same machine?
- Is the product likely to be used only by a certain category of people or does it have to be usable by everybody, including children, old people, and handicapped people?
- Are the users motivated by the fun of using the product, by the improved comfort and convenience that the product provides, by a pressing need, or is the use of this product part of a paid job, etc.?
- Will the users be discouraged if it takes too long to learn how to use the product?
- Do the users have the patience to read the instructions or will they want to start using the product right away?
- Can we expect the users to have a special education or knowledge?
- Can we expect the users to have received specific instructions or training in the use of this kind of product?
- Can we expect the users to be able to read instructions in a particular language, or do we need to make instructions in several languages, or make the product self-explanatory so that no instructions are needed at all?
- Can we expect the users to know technical terms used in the instructions?
This picture shows a ballot from the US presidential election in Florida 2000. The user has to punch a hole in the middle of the ballot at the point indicated by the numbered arrow next to the name of the desired candidate. It turned out that only a few hundred votes separated the two main candidates, George W. Bush and Al Gore. However, several thousand voters punched a hole next to Pat Buchanan though they intended to vote for Al Gore, and many more punched two holes or made other errors. Thus, the slightly confusing design of this ballot has probably decided who became the president of the United States!
The core of the problem here is that the designers haven't taken the user profile into account. The ballot has to be clearly understandable to all adults, including people with lowered visual and cognitive skills. Furthermore, all users are first time users, and they are unlikely to spend more than a few seconds studying the ballot before punching their hole.