Plain speaking, out among them English

I was talking to my friend Rick Frankel about a web application, and mentioned possibly using Flash. You would have thought I had suggested writing HTML, where whole interface page was inclosed in <blink> .. </blink> tags. For those of you who never used Netscape Navigator the blink tag was perhaps the most annoying HMTL "feature" other than the pop-up window.

Rick was adamant about pointing out, that in he feels Flash does not pass the usability test. Web-based applications are ephemeral (Jacob Nielsen), and thus they must have a very low learning curve. Users may not get a chance to come back, time and again, to learn your web application's GUI. This is why the basic HTML form, with multiple choice questions, or simply text boxes, works so well. The application asks one sequential question after another, and the user is seldom confused.

Jakob Neilsen gives a Flash confusion example in one of his "Alertbox" posts: "On a page that asked for the square footage of the area to be covered, he was swearing as he tried to calculate his floor area by hand. Next to the form he was struggling with was a large animated graphic with flying words, including "room planner," "set up room size," "length," "width," and several other terms indicating that the box linked to an application for computing floor sizes. Too bad this user didn't see it. Nor did our other test users."

For me simple is usually better, so I listen to Rick, but there may be hope (see Nielsen's newest report, "Flash Usability: Design Guidelines for Web-Based Functionality, Tools, and Applications").

Rick's added eMail note: It's not just about usability, it's also about searchability and structure (Google "semantic web").

Anyway -- buy the book, see the movie...
Jakob Nielsen (Jakob Nielsen)

No comments: