[wp-hackers] Wordpress 1.5 downloads

Elliotte Harold elharo at metalab.unc.edu
Mon Jan 2 00:08:32 GMT 2006

David House wrote:

> I might be wrong, but I thought we were talking about finding bugs,
> not usability fixes. For the former you need people used to the system
> as well. Otherwise how are bugs in modules like XMLRPC going to be
> found?

No, I'm talking about usability testing and usability issues. I know 
some people are confusing this with simple functional testing, but 
that's just a symptom of how poorly trained most programmers are w.r.t. 
usability issues. Fixing all the outright bugs would not fix the 
problems. In fact, it wouldn't begin to address the real issues.

I'll repeat: to design usable software you have to test with real users. 
The goal here is not to find bugs. It is to identify the software 
designer's misconceptions about how users understand and use the 
product. It is to identify the points where the UI is confusing and 
needs to be redesigned.

There are other kinds of testing, and they are valuable too for 
different reasons; but without serious user testing, one cannot design 
usable software. WordPress and many web based applications have gotten 
as far as they have only because the browser severely limits what 
developers can do, thus creating simpler systems users have at least a 
snowball's chance in hell of navigating. However, as AJAXian features 
are used to enable richer user interfaces, it becomes possible to design 
more complex interfaces; and, without a deep understanding of usability 
issues and testing with real users, the applications become too 
difficult to use.

To quote the eminent philosopher Stan Lee, "With great power comes great 
responsibility." If you're going to take advantage of the power of AJAX, 
you have the responsibility to use it for good, not evil. :-)

OK, I'm exaggerating here. The worst that's going to happen is that 
people will simply drop WordPress and choose a product that's easier to 
use instead. They aren't going to tell you they're doing this. They 
aren't going to explain why they're doing it. They're just going to do 
it. Usable software defeats unusable software in the marketplace. That's 
not an absolute rule, but it's a reasonable approximation to the truth.

New features should not be implemented without testing them on real 
people in the target audience, not just WordPress programmers. Old 
features should not be redesigned without testing them on real people. 
Otherwise you're shooting arrows blindfolded in the dark and hoping you 
hit the target. Only watching people use the software lets you find out 
what works and what doesn't.

Elliotte Rusty Harold  elharo at metalab.unc.edu
XML in a Nutshell 3rd Edition Just Published!

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