Aaron and I use Google Docs (as well as other Google applications) quite extensively. We joke that we’ve quaffed a lot of Google’s Kool Aid, and like it so much that we always come back for more.
Our main reasons for using Google Docs are its ease of access and its simplicity. Wherever we are, we can work on notes and drafts and articles and more as long as we have a wireless Internet connection. If not, then we can work offline using Google Gears. On top of that, Google Docs is easy to use and has just the features we need.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve read complaints in various blogs about how Google Docs (and other Google apps) aren’t updated with big, splashy features — compared to, say, rivals like Yahoo! Mail or Zoho Office. Google handles changes to its applications in the right way: one that has little apparent impact on the user.
In the various development shops in which I’ve worked over the years, I noticed polarized attitudes towards users. In couple of the shops, developers really went out of their way to address the needs of the users. They listened to the concerns of their users, tried to give them the features that they wanted, and fix usability problems with the application. They didn’t always succeed, but many of the customers appreciated the effort.
Recently, a colleague sent me a document detailing the DITA message specialization. The document is an HTML Help file, and I noticed that many of the links in the file (which described certain DITA elements) had tooltips which appeared when I held the mouse pointer over them.
I viewed the source of one of the topics in the file, and discovered that the author of the document had added the HTML title attribute to the links, along with a description of each DITA element. It was a simple and effective solution, one which didn’t require any scripting. Overall, it was a nice touch.
Then, I began to wonder how useful something like this actually is.
Like many people, when you hear the word DOS you probably cringe. You remember the days when you had to type a bunch of commands to do anything; no graphical point and click there. But, as Cameron Moll discovered, in some cases DOS can be the most efficient user interface for a task.
Usability doesn’t seem to have been taken into consideration with much of the enterprise software out there. Well, the folks at Forum Nokia have released a list of the top 10 usability guidelines for enterprise software. Among the guidelines:
- Provide a clear navigation model
- Use familiar language
- Provide useful feedback and help
Advice like this really applies to all software.
One of my favourite e-commerce Web sites is CDBaby.com. The site sells an amazing selection of music, has great customer service, and the artists get the lions share of the proceeds from a sale. But one feature of the site that keeps me coming back is the simplicity of the design.