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The ABC of Usability Part 12

The latest instalment in our monthly list of User Experience terms and definitions.

Each month, we are adding new terms to our existing glossary of Usability and UX definitions; terms we deem useful, interesting or – hopefully – a mixture of the two!

Discover new terms, learn more about the ones you thought you knew and find out interesting, little known, details.

January’s five new terms are as follows:

Thoughtless Acts

A thoughtless act describes a person’s subconscious, instinctive reaction to their environment – an act without thought. Specifically reactions where a person interacts in a way we wouldn’t expect – creating solutions for themselves. These acts show how a person interacts with, and experiences their surroundings.

Common examples of this phenomena in the real world include using a newspaper or book to shield the sun whilst sunbathing, or using a cold can of soda on one’s forehead to cool down. These are not the intended uses for the objects, but perform the task required of them.

These unexpected interactions with the real world offer us great insight into how people subconsciously experience their surroundings. Offering a valuable tool when designing with usability in mind.

Some great examples of Thoughtless Acts can be found here.

Drop Down list

Drop downs are a commonly found user interface element. Found everywhere from Operating Systems to the internet, they serve the great purpose of using minimal screen real estate when not in use.

Initially concealing their contents, when the user interacts with the drop down, the list is revealed. This is useful for hiding rarely used functions, keeping elements organised and for saving space. A key weapon in the UI designers arsenal.

Paging

Not quite the archaic communication device that first comes to mind. Paging is a web design methodology whereby content, such as an article, is split up and linked together by pages. This is essentially the opposite to infinite scrolling.

Historically this method was prevalent on the internet. Paging formed an effective method for bypassing slow internet speeds and the consequently slow page load times. By loading the content one page at a time, it is split up and thus the stress on the system decreases. However, as web technologies have advanced: higher performances machines, faster internet speeds, and the advent of infinite scrolling have largely surrendered this technique as an internet artefact.

It does hold a niche however. One popular proponent of this technique is google. This is due to an interesting HCI concept, whereby providing a simple end point ensures users do not get disoriented by the vast amounts of data being thrown at them. More can be read on the subject here.

404

Quite possibly the most prevalent error on the internet. So prevalent in fact, that in recent years joke 404 pages are not uncommon as a light method of relieving the stress of a situation.

The “404 not found” error is a server response to being unable to return a requested link to a user – because of a dead or broken link, due to a page being moved or deleted. Hence becoming one of the most recognisable errors we find when browsing.

The non-threatening nature of the 404, and its abundance has led to the rise of comical 404 pages. A great, and very strange, example of such a page can be found here and is definitely worth a look!

Widget

Widgets are on-screen devices used to interact with the web page or convey information to the user. Early internet examples include the historic page view counter image and many banner advertisements. As the web has evolved however, these have become more intuitive and lend more to the user experience.

Aside from the web, they can also be found on operating systems. Most notably, widgets formed a key component of the Windows Vista OS – only for used to be warned later by Microsoft that they posed a security risk.

Current examples you may come across on the web include: radio buttons, sliders, push buttons, or our very own Usabilla Live!

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