Friday, February 09, 2007

"Usability by Copying" - Optimal Usability's Newsletter

My straight talking kiwi mate Trent from Optimal Usability has written an interesting piece on doing usability by copying. I imagine some people are horrified by this suggestion, not least a few lawyers, but I think Trent is right. I remember a designer who worked on a project for us once who designed a new kind of scrollbar. Not only did this cost our organization money but it made the user learn how to use something new when they didn't need to. We have enough complex problems to solve without needlessly re-inventing the wheel as a way to express ourselves.

Here's what Trent has to say on the matter.

Last week I was walking through a proposed site design with a client who had a limited usability budget. They wanted to make sure they had a very usable site, but couldn't afford to run a full research study. My advice? That they straight out copy. Imitate the date-picker widget at Cathay Pacific. Base the booking engine on Use a sign-in process like at Google.

You don't need to reinvent the wheel every time you are trying to solve an interaction problem. Many companies have significant usability budgets, and the result of their work is publicly available on the web. While these designs might not be perfect, they offer a great starting point. Here are a couple of things to take into account if you decide to copy other's designs....

Read more in the Optimal Usability Newsletter.


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