Good/Bad Design 8: Apple Help Menu

I was working in inDesign the other day when I needed to use Spell Check on my work, yet didn’t know where to find it. Rather than hunting aimlessly through the menu structure, I went to the Help menu to type in my search. Using the Help menu is an action I rarely do; I usually know what I’m looking for or don’t trust the application to give me a straight answer. A reasonable reaction, I think. After all, Cooper says that Help menus are more often created poorly and historically known to not be very helpful.

But what I found through my search was that the menu not only changed results according to my input, but it would highlight and point to the menu item I was looking for. I thought it might have been an Adobe feature, but later I discovered that it was just my iMac. 😛

Help Menu

So from a usability standpoint, the Help menu not only helps users find what they’re looking for, but also shows them where it is by highlighting it and providing a blue arrow that moves slightly to catch your attention. Cooper states that Help menus should aid the user in understanding the program, and I would certainly say that this does a good job of that.

Help Menu 2

Reading Reflection 6

Paay, J. (2008). From ethnography to interface design.

I didn’t know much about ethnography before reading this article, but I thought it gave a great background on it and the relation to HCI. Obviously, I didn’t know that a gap existed between ethnography and interface design either, but the paper seemed to propose such a simplistic solution that I wonder if it is actually effective. Turning towards ethnography for a contextual understanding of technology seems like a smart move for a designer, since it enriches a user’s experience and provides answers to a design. It makes me wonder why such a gap still exists between the two, although I can understand how the translation could prove difficult. I guess it shows that moving from Research to Planning isn’t always easy.

I also thought this article gave an informative instruction on their design process.

Eysenbach, G., & Köhler, C. (2002). How do consumers search for and appraise health information on the world wide web? Qualitative study using focus groups, usability tests, and in-depth interviews.

This article reminded me about the one on information scent, partially because of the task searching and the medical information topic. What I most liked about this reading was the quotes from the focus groups and interviews about credibility. The participants mentioned several key items to consider when designing. It also shows that users will likely not continue on a site if it lacks perceived credibility.

Millen, D. (2000). Rapid ethnography: Time deepening strategies for HCI field research.

This paper posed many standing problems with ethnographic methods for HCI. While it may be a powerful way of obtaining research on your audience, I can understand how time does not always allow for such an extensive analysis. Rapid ethnography seems to provide an alternative to time-sensitive projects by “narrowing the focus of the field research”, using “multiple interactive observation techniques”, and using “collaborative and computerized iterative data analyze methods”. However, it does seem that many sources are recommended for it to succeed, such as field guides, corporate informants, various software, etc.

Cooper. (2007). About face 3.

Cooper’s Chapter 4 covers ways to conduct qualitative research, including ethnographic interviews. He suggests speaking with stakeholders and subject matter experts to identify candidates for interviews before actually conducting them. This way, the designer basically sets up a persona hypothesis and has a basic idea of the different behavior patters that will appear when researching. Cooper also touches briefly on other types of research such as focus groups, usability testing, card sorting, and task analysis – many of which we spoke of in class last week.