Putting things where users expect them

28Apr09

While working with an online spreadsheet program, I noticed something interesting. As you might already know, some web-based applications don’t have a “Save” button. Instead, changes are saved automatically, without any action on your part. Well, in the case of this spreadsheet program, the designers realized that people would still be looking for the missing button, so they put a dummy option into the menus. But when you select Save, it shows a message telling you that changes are saved on the fly, so there’s no need for you to save changes manually.

This is a simple yet brilliant approach. The designers knew that users would be looking for the Save button in its usual stomping grounds. Then, they took advantage of this expectation to provide help at the precise moment when people need it. And this method can be extended to virtually any task or process that works a bit differently than the status quo. In short, let people find things where they’re used to seeing them. Then, use that opportunity to teach them how your product improves on the old way. They’ll become comfortable with your product a lot sooner, and will probably feel like it’s anticipating their needs with incredible accuracy.



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