Apprehension is the enemy of interface design 15 Aug 2005
35 comments Latest by John
Go to your local grocery story or Home Depot, or whoever else has self checkout and just watch. Watch for about 10 minutes. You’ll see the physical manifestation of apprehension caused by people interacting with machine-based interfaces.
You’ll see lots of squinting, lots of “almost pushed” buttons, lots of hand sliding and gliding (when someone moves their hand around the screen seeking out the button the want to press), lots of slow motion (“the slower I go the less mistakes I can make”), lots of corner-eye looks to see what everyone else is doing, and lots of quick pull aways. It’s as if the faster you pull your hand away from the screen the less likely the machine will think you meant to do something wrong.
Apprehension is the enemy of interface design. Like Krug says, Don’t Make Me Think. Any thinking also includes a thought about trying something different, the opportunity cost of pressing this over that, and, worst of all, the thought of bail out.
When designing interfaces try to imagine all the things that would scare someone away from a choice. The language, the shape, the color, the proximity, the weight, the position. Even things as seemingly simple as save or submit can cause enough confusion to let apprehension slip in.
And, finally, don’t forget about what happens after someone fills out a form, presses a button, or clicks a link. As an interface designer your job doesn’t end in helping someone make a decision — it follows through to the result of the decision itself. Did it work? Did it not? What just happened? What happens next? Put simply, your interface needs to answer more questions than it asks.