Re: Usability of tabbed dialogs

Subject: Re: Usability of tabbed dialogs
From: "Jared M. Spool" <jspool -at- UIE -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 31 Aug 1996 13:30:38 -0500

On 30 Aug 96, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca wrote:

> Jared Spool posted a fascinating summary of some studies
> he's done on user confusion with tabbed dialog boxes. One
> question, though: from Jared's description, the problems
> seem to lie entirely with new users. It occurs to me that
> like any other user-interface quirk, once you know how the
> dialogs work, they no longer pose a problem, and you can
> work with them effectively. For example, "power users" in
> Photoshop generally seem to love the "one-stop shopping"
> tabbed dialogs and consider them to be huge time savers.

> So perhaps these findings don't apply once you've gotten
> over the initial hump in the learning curve. Any data that
> supports or contradicts my hypothesis, Jared?

That hasn't proven to be the case in our testing. Experienced users
also have problems that they can't explain, because of the
difficulties described in the article. It's because of the
separation in the user's concentration -- having to stop thinking
abou the work at hand and having to think about how the interaction
in the tool is going to effect their outcome -- that snags people.

What is true is that, almost without knowing it, experienced users
will develop habits (such as never changing things on more than one
tab without getting out and in again) that counter the effects. When
we ask them to explain why they do this, they can't really elaborate
it, except that it makes "unexplainable problems" go away.

Jared M. Spool User Interface Engineering
jspool -at- uie -dot- com 800 Turnpike Street, Suite 101
(508) 975-4343 North Andover, MA 01845
fax: (508) 975-5353 USA

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