September 12, 2005
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A Usability Question

A question for all you usability gurus in the trenches: how do you work that common complaint, "the fonts one this web page are too small!"

This is difficult because these words describe two distinct maladies:

One user is saying, "No one could read the page I'm seeing." The other is saying, "I don't like the page." These are two different things. How do you efficiently disambiguate them?

We've often treated the two issues together. We say, 'People shouldn't have to think.' We say, 'Make the client happy.' We say, 'We've got tot design for accessibility.' We say, 'All the graphic design stuff is for arty types anyway' and put everything in 16pt Times Roman.

Katrina reminds us that convenience and comfort can't be our ultimate goals. It's nice if the Official Request Forms are clear and well designed, but it's essential that the people and equipment we requested actually show up to rescue the people who need to be rescued. It's nice if the helicopter pilot's task is safe and straightforward, but it's essential that you get thousands of people out of the water. There's a big difference between making things a little harder than perhaps they ought to be, and making them so hard you can't do them.