Usability Heuristic 3 User Control & Freedom

Have you ever said a friendly hello to someone and then got caught in a long, drawn out conversation, you might have wanted out of it but couldn’t think of a polite exit because there’s no way to undo that. Hello? You might begin to avoid such niceties in the future. Use user control and freedom is one of Jacob Nielson’s 10 useability heuristics. It states that users often choose system functions by mistake and need a clearly marked emergency exit to leave that unwanted state. Basically support, undo and redo. A common example would be the back and forward buttons on every Web browser.

Imagine if that didn’t exist. You’d have to be really confident in every single click as you navigate around the web because there’d be no easy way to get back to where you were. If you click to visit a page and realized it wasn’t what you needed. Similarly, any process or mode in any digital system should include a way for users to back out when needed. And websites can’t only rely on those browser buttons, but should provide users a clear way to leave a stepped process or cancel whatever it was they started on that Web page itself. Undo or cancel is particularly important for mobile devices and other touch screens were accidental. Taps are common and again, these emergency exits should be clearly marked. For instance, many people have no clue that some mobile apps allow undo by shaking the device, just like you could shake to erase the classic Etch a Sketch toy. If users never discover a feature, does it even exist when it’s easy for people to back out of an unwanted process or undo an action? It fosters a sense of freedom because they realize they don’t need to be afraid to click on that link or test out that photo filter.

They know that if it turns out to not be what they wanted, they can easily undo that action. They’re always in control of the system and aren’t going to get stuck somewhere they didn’t intend.

The UX Intern

So for the summer, I had one main project that is the Web site, usability, testing, research, all the top UX issues that are still existing for the website we are using today. And it’s really exciting for me because it is the third time that we do this study since like ninety five. So it’s a big thing. And I also conducted two local studies in China, one on WeChat, which is a popular topic that people were talking recently. And I did. Dyre studies usability test things with our local Chinese users. And I also did like a comparison between Chinese users and foreign users on how they are dealing with websites of different complexity. And in between of this Hands-On practice, I got the chance and learn a lot from sitting in or UX conferences as well.

What do you think was the main difference between what you learned during this user experience project compared to what you’re learning at university?

I think the huge difference is like you can talk to real users in the real settings. So in school we sometimes like kind of like idealist and but in the real settings, you have to think about all of those real world constraints and how you are going to plan those research and conduct. So for me, for example, like simply by exchanging ideas like test plans or anything and by practicing the opening dialog for my research is going to help me to improve a lot. So it’s really helpful in a different flavor.

Yeah. So how important do you think it is for graduate students to do an internship in industry?

Well, it’s definitely helpful for you to practice something you’ll learn in school and on the other hand, learn by doing and learn from the experts who already got rich. Experience in industry definitely helps a lot. So for me and I think another important issue is like for the HCI student, one of the most essential lessons that we need to learn is how to communicate with real users in the real settings and how to bring those research in size and design ideas to the real product. So and this process could be surprisingly challenging, but always good when you could start from intern and be allowed to make mistakes.

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