In The Inmates Are Running The Asylum, Alan Cooper argues that embedding a computer into existing technology does not produce enhanced alarm clocks, cameras or cars, it produces a computer. Cooper's point is that embedded computers often make their presence felt too strongly in the user interfaces required to operate the new functions brought by those computers. I would add blu-ray players to Cooper's list. Why? Because blu-ray players act more like computers than DVD players.
Some time ago I read a newspaper article about a tragedy that occurred in a nursing home. Four elderly residents died after drinking diluted dishwasher cleaning fluid rather than the intended blackcurrant cordial drink. This story stuck in my mind not only because it was a tragedy for the residents, their families, and the staff of the nursing home, but also because it is characteristic of so many accidents: a sequence of unintended events pave the road to disaster.
This article compares the usability of physical on/off swtiches with the user interface for shutting down a computer.
This article shows how making a simple change to the usual interaction style of an elevator button can improve its usability.
This article provides a nice example of how feedback is used to teach users how the London underground barriers work.
This article describes the interaction design of my kitchen timer. The designers have paid attention to how the timer will be used as well as to how it works, and despite ignoring the conventional wisdom that eschews modal interfaces-the timer has several modes and overloads every button-the interaction is natural and easy to use.
Interactive controls should produce an accurate mental model in their users about what the control does through clear labelling. This article demonstrates that breaking this rule makes it difficult for users to understand the effects of changing the value of a control.
In their recent New York Times article, Matt Richtel and Ashlee Vance cite the impatience of contemporary computer users as the force driving manufacturers to reduce the boot-up times of their PCs. Making users wait for their PC to boot up has always been a heinous usability crime so this problem cannot be solved soon enough.
Users develop their mental model of software from the user interface and past experience with similar software. Developers' generate their mental models from their familiarity with how the software works. This article discusses how the differences between these mental models can affect the usability of software.