Thursday, April 8, 2010

Design Sense : Avoiding Unintended Expectations In Writing

Our recent experiences with Supercool School have reminded us some of the key aspects of web application design, that we normally take for granted otherwise. For instance, clarity of copy writing on our web applications. Are our messages clear and conveying what we really intend to? Are our messages clearly translating our vision and ideas? Are our messages guiding the user to interact with the application naturally?

Some times, if we fail to think through the mental model of real users, it may result in unintended expectations on our applications. For example, when a new user try to signup for an account at  Supercool School, this particular screen is displayed where the user is offered a choice of signing up for a Professional Account or start a Free school. Look at the screen and try to figure out how many users a Free school can have?


Based on the text, there is only ONE limit on free school : you can host only 15 classes in a given month, compared to unlimited classes in the Professional account. Omitting number of users for a free school, led us to think  there is no limit on users in free School version.

What do you think? 

We came to know later that it allows only a maximum of 15 members in a free school. They might have mentioned some where, but we didn’t notice until we hear complaints from users that they couldn’t signup.

Go back and have a look at your web site or application. Make sure, those messages really translate what you intended. Try to think like a user. Or even better conduct a few usability tests with real users. See, if they can use the application just the way you want them to use. Then try tweaking your flow, messages and everything on your site until a new user can navigate your application and get things done as they are supposed to be.

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