Exploration Through Example

Example-driven development, Agile testing, context-driven testing, Agile programming, Ruby, and other things of interest to Brian Marick
191.8 167.2 186.2 183.6 184.0 183.2 184.6

Tue, 07 Sep 2004

Usability tricks

On the Agile-Usability list, I asked for tricks:

I'd like to hear some advice to programmers, testers, and others on agile projects about how they could get a bit better at those things that the interaction design (etc.) people are really, really good at. Those things should be absorbable and try-able without a huge investment in time.

Dave Cronin (who says he loves to get mail), responded with this nice list:

  • Make all decisions within the context of one or more specific user archetypes (personas, actors, whatever you want to call them) accomplishing specific things (scenarios, goals, use cases, etc).

  • Express what the user is trying to accomplish in English. For example, if you have a complex form, first try to describe what is being specified in sentences. Then use the sequence of sentences to order fields in the layout and use the nouns and verbs from the sentences to label fields.

  • Focus on goals, not tasks. Goals are the end result that users want to achieve-- tasks are the things that get them there. Sometimes being overly focused on the tasks makes you lose the forest for the trees. Even if you can't do the bluesky design where you cut out a bunch of unnecessary tasks, focusing on goals will still help you express things in a way that a user will understand.

  • Use a grid for layout. Seems obvious, but its amazing how often I see screens layed-out with no order whatsoever. Look no further than the front page of the Wall Street Journal or any of a number of other newspapers for how to fit a ton of information of varying importance into a compact space.

  • Use color sparingly. A couple colors used judiciously can really make a screen come alive. Using five colors haphazardly makes you screen look like salad.

  • Optimize for the common case, accommodate the edge cases

  • Rough out a framework before you try to lay out every button and field. Work with the big rectangles and push them around until things start to fit. Test layout with a variety of possible controls, think of the worst case situation, make sure things degrade gracefully. Then when it seems like it will work, go ahead and extend your framework by laying out all the specifics. As you all know, things change all the time. A solid framework can accommodate these changes, meaning you will rarely have to restructure your interface after you refactor.

Thanks, Dave.

## Posted at 10:41 in category /agile [permalink] [top]

About Brian Marick
I consult mainly on Agile software development, with a special focus on how testing fits in.

Contact me here: marick@exampler.com.




Agile Testing Directions
Tests and examples
Technology-facing programmer support
Business-facing team support
Business-facing product critiques
Technology-facing product critiques
Testers on agile projects

Permalink to this list


Working your way out of the automated GUI testing tarpit
  1. Three ways of writing the same test
  2. A test should deduce its setup path
  3. Convert the suite one failure at a time
  4. You should be able to get to any page in one step
  5. Extract fast tests about single pages
  6. Link checking without clicking on links
  7. Workflow tests remain GUI tests
Permalink to this list


Design-Driven Test-Driven Design
Creating a test
Making it (barely) run
Views and presenters appear
Hooking up the real GUI


Popular Articles
A roadmap for testing on an agile project: When consulting on testing in Agile projects, I like to call this plan "what I'm biased toward."

Tacit knowledge: Experts often have no theory of their work. They simply perform skillfully.

Process and personality: Every article on methodology implicitly begins "Let's talk about me."


Related Weblogs

Wayne Allen
James Bach
Laurent Bossavit
William Caputo
Mike Clark
Rachel Davies
Esther Derby
Michael Feathers
Developer Testing
Chad Fowler
Martin Fowler
Alan Francis
Elisabeth Hendrickson
Grig Gheorghiu
Andy Hunt
Ben Hyde
Ron Jeffries
Jonathan Kohl
Dave Liebreich
Jeff Patton
Bret Pettichord
Hiring Johanna Rothman
Managing Johanna Rothman
Kevin Rutherford
Christian Sepulveda
James Shore
Jeff Sutherland
Pragmatic Dave Thomas
Glenn Vanderburg
Greg Vaughn
Eugene Wallingford
Jim Weirich


Where to Find Me

Software Practice Advancement


All of 2006
All of 2005
All of 2004
All of 2003



Agile Alliance Logo