FAQ

Marty Landman wrote:
At 12:13 PM 4/13/2004, Drew Taylor wrote:

believe that there are a lot of people who can learn to "program" to
some degree.

Playing devil's advocate for a moment Drew, I remember compsci 1.1 at
Brooklyn College - I took the course because needed science credits, had
<snip>
Anyway, me and two others got easy A's. Most everyone else it seemed had
no idea what was going on. And it's always struck me that I had no idea
what problems they could possibly have, no clue why the material
presented any challenge at all.
Some things just resonate with people. I'm good at programming. My wife
is an awesome chef. Some people can write music, or play an instrument.
IMHO, it's all about natural talents. The trick is figuring out where
your talents lie. How do you do that? I just try lots of things, and
eventually I find something I like that I'm good at.
Y'know, my conviction has always been that anyone who really enjoys the
work will do well at it.
I agree, to a point. My wife was an awesome cook before she went to
culinary school. Now that she has a broader, deeper understanding of the
foundations she's simply a whiz. Natural talent & enjoyment of a pursuit
only go so far. At some point you have to work to improve yourself, be
that schooling, reading, osmosis, etc.
Does anyone have usability recommendations they would like to share?

Three - google searches for specific problems and general guidelines
will yield rich results if you cull, you might want to join the ACM's
CHI-WEB usability list, it's really interesting imo - and the UI folks
really seem to enjoy hearing things from a developer's pov;
I'll check out the usability list. It sounds very interesting. I'm
already on so many lists, one more can't hurt right? :-)
One of the more interesting things I've read on CHI-WEB is that when
asking users what they like, don't like, find easy, hard etc... and then
comparing those answers to their observed behavior in performing the
tasks they don't match up necessarily. IOW someone may say they found
feature A very easy and feature B very hard but records show they may
have done B quickly and A slowly.
I've also found this to be true. Better to observe (unknown if possible)
and THEN ask questions. It's funny how people's perceptions can
sometimes be so different from real life. This is the reason why I try
to roll out releases in an incremental fashion. Get the base right, and
then once people actually have a chance to USE the software you (or
they) might decide that the initial direction was completely wrong. XP
is a big advocate of this methodology.
One of the things I do when developing software in my home office is ask
my wife and kids and sometimes my kids' friends to try them out when
this is reasonable and permissible. Then I lean back and watch what they
do, where they have trouble, and what they enjoy most.
That is what a usability expert will do. Put a person in a room w/
cameras (multiple angles is important), and ask them to do some tasks.
There may or may not be instructions. The most important thing is to
observe the person's INITIAL reaction. This reaction may not be the
best, but it's key to understanding how to guide the user to what/where
you want them to be. A camera pointed at the face is very important to
catch eye & facial cues. If you see that the person is saying one thing,
but their eyes are somewhere else... you need to know! A previous
employer actually setup a room to do this sort of testing. It was very
interesting to say the least.

Drew
--
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Drew Taylor * Web development & consulting
Email: drew@drewtaylor.com * Site implementation & hosting
Web : www.drewtaylor.com * perl/mod_perl/DBI/mysql/postgres
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