Why not ask for *opinions*? (was "The old Play/Pause toggle")

11 Aug 2006 - 3:51pm
8 years ago
1 reply
710 reads
Christopher Fahey
2005

> Can anyone point me to sources in which people have done
> usability studies of such a behavior in various interfaces,
> and how effective or not effective it is?

Why do so many list questions always begin with "Are there any studies
about...?" instead of "What is your expert opinion about...?"

It seems to me that quite often the question being asked is unlikely to show
up in any relevant research studies anyway. And even if there are, the
question is inevitably, albeit sheepishly, answered by other list members
offering their own unscientific expert opinions. And more often than not
these expert opinions are pretty darn good.

For example, in the case of the PLAY/PAUSE button question, Liya (I'm not
picking on you, Liya!) indicates that her application is fairly different
from a normal media player model. If there are any studies about play/pause
buttons out there, they may be at best tangentially applicable to her
exceptional requirements. Yet I'll bet that dozens of us on the list have
given this concept lots of thought at one point in our lives or another.

In that spirit of expert advice, here are some of my design opinions about
the PLAY/PAUSE problem: Stick as closely as possible to existing metaphors
and conventions even if it's not exactly a media player. Some one-button
examples: For one (flip/flop) button, use icons not text (more on this
below). When the app is in PLAY mode, blink the play button. When it's
paused, put a big "PAUSED" message somewhere (not on the button). As an
alternate one-button approach, create a more literal image of a toggle
switch (http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/store/images/toggle_switch.jpg). And
here's a two-button example: Have two buttons, PLAY and PAUSE. Only one can
be pressed at a time (like a radio button). What not to do: Do not have the
button say "PLAY" when it is paused and "PAUSE" when it is playing. If your
users are familiar with iTunes or Windows Media Player, they will understand
the icon approach but the text approach is just too confusing. The text
approach defies common sense. Finally, if you are not literally using PLAY
and PAUSE as the exact user-facing term for the feature (i.e., if the
feature is really thought of by the user as "ENABLED/DISABLED" or
"OPEN/CLOSED" or "BUY/SELL"), then do NOT use a PLAY/PAUSE style flip/flop
button.

Cheers,
-Cf

Christopher Fahey
____________________________
Behavior
http://www.behaviordesign.com
me: http://www.graphpaper.com

Comments

11 Aug 2006 - 3:59pm
Mark Schraad
2006

Because heuristic evaluations (that means "in my professional opinion
based on all of my experience"), though they may well solve some
problems, are short cuts. The same is true with a published study, if
the constraints and conditions are not precisely the same. That is
why it pays to test nearly every stage with USERS even though in
inevitably slows the dev process and pisses off the business or
product managers. Defining the problem is usually 90% of the work.
Rarely do designers solve the exact same problem twice.

Mark

On Aug 11, 2006, at 5:51 PM, Christopher Fahey wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
>> Can anyone point me to sources in which people have done
>> usability studies of such a behavior in various interfaces,
>> and how effective or not effective it is?
>
> Why do so many list questions always begin with "Are there any studies
> about...?" instead of "What is your expert opinion about...?"
>
> It seems to me that quite often the question being asked is
> unlikely to show
> up in any relevant research studies anyway. And even if there are, the
> question is inevitably, albeit sheepishly, answered by other list
> members
> offering their own unscientific expert opinions. And more often
> than not
> these expert opinions are pretty darn good.
>
> For example, in the case of the PLAY/PAUSE button question, Liya
> (I'm not
> picking on you, Liya!) indicates that her application is fairly
> different
> from a normal media player model. If there are any studies about
> play/pause
> buttons out there, they may be at best tangentially applicable to her
> exceptional requirements. Yet I'll bet that dozens of us on the
> list have
> given this concept lots of thought at one point in our lives or
> another.
>
> In that spirit of expert advice, here are some of my design
> opinions about
> the PLAY/PAUSE problem: Stick as closely as possible to existing
> metaphors
> and conventions even if it's not exactly a media player. Some one-
> button
> examples: For one (flip/flop) button, use icons not text (more on this
> below). When the app is in PLAY mode, blink the play button. When it's
> paused, put a big "PAUSED" message somewhere (not on the button).
> As an
> alternate one-button approach, create a more literal image of a toggle
> switch (http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/store/images/
> toggle_switch.jpg). And
> here's a two-button example: Have two buttons, PLAY and PAUSE. Only
> one can
> be pressed at a time (like a radio button). What not to do: Do not
> have the
> button say "PLAY" when it is paused and "PAUSE" when it is playing.
> If your
> users are familiar with iTunes or Windows Media Player, they will
> understand
> the icon approach but the text approach is just too confusing. The
> text
> approach defies common sense. Finally, if you are not literally
> using PLAY
> and PAUSE as the exact user-facing term for the feature (i.e., if the
> feature is really thought of by the user as "ENABLED/DISABLED" or
> "OPEN/CLOSED" or "BUY/SELL"), then do NOT use a PLAY/PAUSE style
> flip/flop
> button.
>
> Cheers,
> -Cf
>
> Christopher Fahey
> ____________________________
> Behavior
> http://www.behaviordesign.com
> me: http://www.graphpaper.com
>
>
>
>
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