How do people use applications differently from expected?

11 Jul 2008 - 5:53am
6 years ago
2 replies
854 reads
Petra Liverani
2008

I seem to remember that in an earlier post Robert mentioned that users will
not always utililse an application as expected, for example, using a wiki as
a project management tool.

When our company got a Confluence wiki I initially considered creating a
space for a group of users but decided against it because there was no
navigation menu. I later discovered there was a left navigation menu plug-in
and saw other sites using the left nav with a Search above it. The position
of the Search seemed so much friendlier than the remote default top right
position so I had the space created with the left nav and "friendlier"
Search. Shortly afterwards I discovered that the faster operators were using
the Search to navigate the space and not bothering with the left nav.
Indeed, I used the Search myself the same way - in their space though I
generally used the left nav in my own space. Ironically, although it was the
lack of a left nav that stopped me creating the space in the first place, I
seriously thought of the possibility of removing it as perhaps a way to stop
users wasting time drilling down looking for things when they could find it
much more quickly with the Search. However, I feel sure users wouldn't have
used the remote Search for navigation if the more friendly-placed Search
wasn't there - partly because of its position and partly because its default
is to search the whole wiki rather than the wiki space which makes it more
cumbersome.

What other ways have you experienced people using applications differently
from expected?

Regards,
Petra

Comments

30 Jun 2008 - 9:00am
Jay Morgan
2006

Hi Petra,

Realizing that users pave their own paths through an application is a
significant milestone in maturing towards sound design.

Applications/sites are usually designed around an *idealized* path through
the application, but the real paths users take often do not match the
idealized. You specifically mention the Confluence wiki, and I'd point you
to Confluence's own study of behavioral patterns with wikis,
http://www.wikipatterns.com/<http://www.wikipatterns.com/display/wikipatterns/Wikipatterns>.
That site reflects that Confluence has a good understanding of a few
behavior types:
- individual users exploring and consuming content
- groups of users interacting through the application
- individuals using the application as a tool to gain leverage (political or
bureaucratic)
- and, how social dynamics play out around the tool and the content it
supports
I have yet to work in a group who understands the interaction between their
product and their users so well that they can define (and reliably document)
it.

I see the challenge being: How do you get the organization to realize the
non-ideal, or real, paths through the application and to design for them? In
my last ecommerce role, I went so far as to make a flow diagram of the
idealized path to product just to show people on each project what we
assumed was happening. That explicit diagram made it easier to talk about
less discussed, but highly common, real paths we saw users taking through an
experience. After all, it's hard enough for a large team to imagine an
abstract path for one scenario, much less for them to imagine several
competing paths. Once you name and reveal the ideal path, use metrics to
support the fact users pave their own way.

I would call you out on the practice of deciding to hide/show navigation in
the wiki, though. Rather than a priori hiding the nav, release it and find
out how people use it. I have to reflect on the many times I've seen a
stakeholder fiat to "remove that feature", when there is good evidence that
it will add to a better user experience. I'd rather try it out and learn
what direction to take by user behavior than to dictate it myself.

I hope this helps.
-Jay

On Fri, Jul 11, 2008 at 6:53 AM, Petra Liverani <petral at iinet.net.au> wrote:

> I seem to remember that in an earlier post Robert mentioned that users will
> not always utililse an application as expected, for example, using a wiki
> as
> a project management tool.
>
> When our company got a Confluence wiki I initially considered creating a
> space for a group of users but decided against it because there was no
> navigation menu. I later discovered there was a left navigation menu
> plug-in
> and saw other sites using the left nav with a Search above it. The position
> of the Search seemed so much friendlier than the remote default top right
> position so I had the space created with the left nav and "friendlier"
> Search. Shortly afterwards I discovered that the faster operators were
> using
> the Search to navigate the space and not bothering with the left nav.
> Indeed, I used the Search myself the same way - in their space though I
> generally used the left nav in my own space. Ironically, although it was
> the
> lack of a left nav that stopped me creating the space in the first place, I
> seriously thought of the possibility of removing it as perhaps a way to
> stop
> users wasting time drilling down looking for things when they could find it
> much more quickly with the Search. However, I feel sure users wouldn't have
> used the remote Search for navigation if the more friendly-placed Search
> wasn't there - partly because of its position and partly because its
> default
> is to search the whole wiki rather than the wiki space which makes it more
> cumbersome.
>
> What other ways have you experienced people using applications differently
> from expected?
>
> Regards,
> Petra
>
>
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--
Jay A. Morgan

Information Architecture & Scenario-based design.
Design Patterns & Mental Models.

30 Jun 2008 - 11:08am
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

>
> Shortly afterwards I discovered that the faster operators were using
> the Search to navigate the space and not bothering with the left nav.
>

> I seriously thought of the possibility of removing it as perhaps a way to
> stop
> users wasting time drilling down looking for things when they could find it
> much more quickly with the Search.

You have a paradox. How will new users know what to search for (what content
exists on the site) without the left-hand navigation?

Navigation serves not only to get people through a space, but also to let
them know what's there in the first place. Your power users started with the
side-nav and eventually moved to Search, after they got comfortable with the
site, but beginning users can't become intermediate users unless you provide
ways for them get up to speed—hence, the side-nav is necessary.

-r-

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