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Girls vs. Boys

pgriggs March 15, 2011

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I work with a great team of people here at ACS Technologies. It’s always nice to work with people you not only get along with, but truly like. One of topics we discuss (more than needed) is bathrooms. Girls vs. Boys.

Most nice ladies rooms have a little more to them than just the basics. Here at work we have music, incense, and a cabinet or two. We even sometimes have a occasional sticky on the mirror telling us we’re beautiful or smart or both. Where the guys truly have “just the basics”.

It’s always a lively conversation when we discuss the differences. Recently, a few of us went to Dallas for some training and upon entering a ladies room in the hotel lobby, we saw huge mural and couch. The doors were made with plantation shutters and of course there was music, lavender soap and lavender lotion.

That was exactly what we’d expect, but it also caused us to giggle. We knew the guys would never understand this. A picture was taken and immediately sent back for everyone to see that girls restrooms are always more elaborate.

Why does this matter? It is after all just teasing among co-workers, but if we examine it, there is a reason. Both restrooms are technically usable they both meet the basic requirements needed. However, designer’s know that if “just the basics” are met for the ladies rest room it would be considered cold, clinical, even less clean. It doesn’t matter how clean it is. It’s the expectation of more that has to be met.

Software is a lot like the ladies rest room. There are times when “just the basics” is not enough. Software is no longer about “just getting the job done”. We have expectations and every time someone pushes the limits our expectations change. Usability is not just usefulness or efficiency. One of the basic ideas of usability is the satisfaction of the user.

An example of this that we recently encountered has to do with hovers. When building hovers for clients what should we include? What’s useful for you? What’s too little? What’s too much? We started with hover 1. We liked this idea and it tested pretty well; however, we found it was cluttered but useful.

Next we tested hover 2. This was clean and users really liked this one; however it didn’t contain enough information, such as family members and all contact information not just primary information.

We currently have this one mocked up and it tested great. It will have the look & feel of hover 2 with just enough information. After all the best design is when you have removed everything you can and the screen is still usable.

There has to be ease of use, discoverability, cleanness and look  & feel that promotes more than the basics.  We are working hard at ACS Technologies to create usable, discoverable software that is clean and friendly.

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