Interface Design Labors: Balance

by Luke Wroblewski May 7, 2004

Getting past globalization and the feature creep requires an almost cat-like ability to balance: user needs and business goals; optimizing for novices (user-friendly) and experts (user empowerment); visual simplicity and information density; emotive experience with functional utility; and more.

User Needs & Business Goals

All the elements within Jesse James Garrett’s diagrammatic definition of user experience (PDF) rest on a strategy that balances users needs and site (business) requirements. Managing user expectations amid growing business requirements is no small task: a look at any Web credibility study will highlight the negative impact revenue generators like banner and pop-up ads have on the user experience. A well-balanced design must optimize business goals by the very nature of its execution. When business goals are separated from user needs (as in the case of banner ads), both user and business objectives suffer.

“Apart from an understanding of user needs and perspective, design needs to incorporate the goals and perspective of other stakeholders in order to get their buy-in and be considered a success in the corporate workplace.” - Understanding Organizational Stakeholders for Design Success, Jonathan Boutelle

User Friendly & User Empowerment

Because we continue to be a ways off from meaningfully adaptive interface designs, our one-size-fits-all solutions still need to strike a balance between novice and expert users. Microsoft tackled how best to approach this balancing act in a topic from the new Aero User Experience Guidelines titled Picking the Right Degree of Control for User Interfaces, as did two students in my graduate class this semester:

User friendliness? User empowerment? How to make a choice? (PDF) by Alan Ng A user-friendly interface will guide users to interact more with tasks and less with the system by only requiring what is necessary for successful task completion. User empowerment gives most (if not all) control of the software to users and provides advanced users a path to enhanced productivity.

User-empowered design: when, why, and how to use it by Melissa Kramer This paper presents many of the hows, whens, and whys of user-empowered design in an educational environment. It is written with the hope that these discussions will promote a holistic understanding of user-empowerment and inspire further thought and writing on the topic.

More Balancing Acts

Visual Simplicity & Information Density Balancing Art & Engineering