Friday, September 30, 2011

Settings and options in software

This is a bit counter intuitive but obvious once you think about it. "Normal" users don't play with software options, they consider the system as a "black box".  This suggests something about their mental model of the system. My guess would be that their understanding of the functional model is very shallow and so they cannot understand the impact of a "general" option that would modify behavior across multiple usage sessions.  I wonder how familiar a users needs to be with a system before they would feel comfortable to modify the settings.

Programmers and such are in the minority and tend to fiddle with the options... who knew.  They tend to generalist about system behavior and become familiar with multiple similar systems.

Familiarity breeds ... familiarity....

The takeaway being that time spent exposing general settings and treating it as part of the UI for casual users are probably wasted.  Options need to be presented to users in ways that are part of  their sessional workflow and are "within context" for what they are doing "Now". Only familiar users will be able to form and thus wish to set a preference for some particular variant behaviour.

So no more hidden settings dialogs. 

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