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Eduardo Ramos
Eduardo Ramos

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Common Usability Myths for Developers - Human-Computer Interaction.

I’d like to share two myths that I always bring up when discussing usability.

Most of the usability myths are born due to design trends becoming rules, spreading the misinterpretation of research, or the dehumanization of users.

For a developer it's more than tempting to follow what others or the majority do, and sometimes, of course, that's not the best thing to do.

It's with time and experience that a developer gains enough confidence and empirical knowledge (after suffering!) to recognize good usability patterns and how to apply it to the software.

However, it's best for the team to know this early in every project and have usability as one of the goals to be achieved in the final product. Your users will be thankful.

When it comes to usability, I liked this article: Usability A part of the User Experience because of the simplicity used to explain broadly the term and it’s applications. It reads:

“Usability” refers to the ease of access and/or use of a product or website. It’s a sub-discipline of user experience design. Although user experience design (UX Design) and usability were once used interchangeably, we must now understand that usability provides an important contribution to UX; however, it’s not the whole of the experience. We can accurately measure usability.

If you're not in a big team, or you're making your first product, you'll probably be by yourself when it comes to design. If you don't have a designer in your team, you'll be saving a lot of time if you consider usability from the beginning.

With this in mind, and taking into account the importance and rise of the term in the past decades, I believe the following myths were born out of that widespread phenomena:

The first myth is:
You could/should copy what works. Whenever someone disrupts the market with a new product that has a great UX and/or usability, many will start to copy the formula as a “one size fits all” solution. They’ll probably copy the UI layout, visual elements and, overall, “what it looks like”.

Inevitably, the user flows will be copied and implemented in a huge variety of sites and products that will most likely not be suited. If no one has done proper -or any user research- to implement this design, it will very much fail.

The second myth:
Don’t listen to users. Jakob Nielsen posted in 2001 an article titled: First Rule of Usability? Don't Listen to Users. This was controversial at the time, of course, and in spite of what many interpreted from it, it has never meant that usability specialists shouldn’t listen to people at all.

He DID say in that article that it was better to watch users work, and then Nielsen explained When and How to Listen. The thing is that you should listen to users AFTER they’re done with the tasks.

There are many more but, in my opinion, these two are the most widespread among the communities. One on the side of developers/designers and the other on the hand of the usability experts.

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