On cats and usability….

Yesterday someone posted this picture in a chat:

I laughed and then I posted this reply:

That’s the whole problem with usability in a nutshell. What developers THINK is intuitive is not the same as what users perceive as intuitive. It’s not the developer that decides what is intuitive, it’s the user.

What followed was a good humored banter between me (playing users advocate) and a bunch of hardcore developers. With replies like:

“does that mean that we have to cater to the 10% of users that still doubleclick on everything? and confuse the internet with the internet explorer? :D”

“I think we’ll have to do a cat satisfaction survey”


“the satisfactions is measured in ppm (purrs per minute) ;)”

So all in good fun but usability really is a hot topic for me. Only last week I was pointed at a feature in Cisco Jabber by someone which was “obvious, right?!?”. When I asked what the action meant though, I was baffled to learn it had a totally different meaning and function from what, not just I, expected but also all others in the room.  It wasn’t obvious at all to us.

I started out doing usability in 2009 and it is a topic very close to my heart. Back then it was a particular example that immediately triggered me and which I described in a blog already back in 2010 (I will link it below). Curious to see if it’s just me being over-sensitive of these things or if others would pick up on that example too, I recreated a mockup of it and asked a couple of people  to take a look and tell me what was wrong with it….


Surprisingly, out of three people I asked only one saw it, but after about two minutes of me prodding, one really had no clue and one overlooked it. Explaining to me later: “you see it and you expect it there so you don’t really register it’s wrong…

No clue yet? Here is how I would expect it to be….

Most of the elements are just decoys as I didn’t want to make it too obvious right away. One person pointed out correctly that No/Yes is usually ordered the other way round (Yes/No) and I agree (I put it in as a kind of trick test) but that order also depends on the question being asked so is not necessarily wrong in this context (although there is a lot to say about correct formulating of questions & answers too!). The main thing here though for me, are the Previous/Next buttons in the bottom.

As Previous/Next imply a directional relation as in <- Back / Forward ->, our brains associate  a spatial order/location with the actions. Most of us don’t even read what’s on the buttons anymore and simply press the button that makes sense for us in terms of where we would expect the Previous/Next action to be.

So…. did you see it? I’m curious to hear!

The 2010 blogpost I did on this topic:….Usability