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"ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)" <[log in to unmask]>
Matthew Belge <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 4 Dec 2008 22:20:07 -0000
Caroline Jarrett <[log in to unmask]>
Caroline Jarrett <[log in to unmask]>
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Matthew Belge
<snip: description of high-usage forms>
> My question: Has anything been done for this type of user to help improve
their throughput and reduce error rates? 

<snip - some suggestions>

Hi Matthew

I'm away from my library right now but if you look back in the literature,
you will find that this was very much the focus of a lot of usability/HCI
work in the 1980s and early 1990s. 

Here are some more tips for making high-usage forms efficient:
- carefully analyse which fields are in fact used a lot and which are used a
little. Try to cram as many high-usage fields as possible onto as few
screens as possible. The resultant screens will be horrible to look at and
difficult to learn, but once learned they should be more efficient

- if users are interrupted or have any other reason why they need to swap
from one record to another, have some way of making this easy to do at high
speed. I saw one system with a 'suspend' feature that allowed you to be
working on two records at once.

- ensure that the entire suite of forms can be totally accessed using
keyboard only, and preferably using keypad only. For example, ensure that
'Enter' will take you to the next field (available on keypad) not just

- analyse the actual data to provide as many defaults as possible. 

- limit dropdowns to the most likely entries plus 'other' to expand to less
likely entries

- brush off your older techniques such as task analysis to find out exactly
what keystrokes are required for the most common transactions. Look for
places where the task flow can be optimised to remove keystrokes

- most of all: go and watch the users with their current applications and
real task load. They may have found all sorts of workarounds that you can
make easier for them. 

And a word of caution: As in any other system, 80% of their work will come
from 20% of calls where they've got the whole thing memorised, right down to
things like keying or mousing ahead to where screens will be in a moment
when they've loaded. Interfering with that MAY bring benefits but will also
cause a short-term drop in productivity while they adjust to the new

Anecdote: I did some observations in a call centre a few years ago. I
watched an expert user (two years experience) deal with a call in less than
4 minutes. I watched a very similar call dealt with by a novice user: 14
minutes. The expert totally multitasked in many different applications,
moved her mouse to where the next click would be ahead of the screen
appearing, and never had to use any thought to make any decision on the
computer: all her attention was on the customer. The novice actually had to
read the screens and make decisions about them.  

Caroline Jarrett

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