Of course, clients who really know what they’re doing are the best of all. Those, however, are pretty few and far between. It’s much more common to get somebody in the middle. And, to throw in another quote, “A little learning is a dangerous thing” can definitely apply to that middle zone.
I’m always amazed at how many things people “in the middle” just don’t get, or don’t get right. There’s probably a number of reasons why however.
The first may simply have to do with exposure. Clients may have simply heard of an idea only in passing – a mention at a conference from last year, an article they once read, a conversation in the hallway. In those situations, subtleties and true understanding are really hard. Overly broad strokes and misconceptions, on the other hand, are really easy.
Usability engineers always know, though, that “it depends,” and things are never as simple as they appear. A good example here might be the number of clicks rule. A couple of years back, marketeers fell in love with the idea that everything should be a couple of clicks away from the homepage. On the surface of it, this actually made some sense.
Some unintended consequences of that, however, included some particularly dense homepages and menus. Further, results from testing showed that users didn’t really resent (or were even aware of) the number of clicks, and were happy to go their merry way as long as they felt confident where they were going. Ironically, this idea of “information scent” could be stronger with a deeper IA than with a shallower one.
It may also have a lot to do with where you got started. A perfect example here is personas. If you have some background in marketing, when you here the word “persona,” you automatically translate that into “segments.” It’s not the same! And it can be really hard to adjust gears and understand the difference.
That actually reminds me a lot of the linguistic concept of false friends. Not to go too far off topic, but that’s when a word you know in English, say, doesn’t mean the same as a word in another language that sounds just like it. For example, don’t say you’re embarazada the next time you slip up with something with your Spanish-speaking friends. It means “pregnant”!
Will Rogers doing a little man-machine research
on some early radio communications hardware