Could turning on a dime be worth a dollar?

Heuristic evaluations

“A heuristic is a mental shortcut that allows people to solve problems and make judgments quickly and efficiently. The rule-of-thumb strategies shorten decision-making time and allow people to function without constantly stopping to think about the next course of action. While heuristics are helpful in many situations, they can also lead to biases.”


Depending on your education, experience and objectivity your common sense could be worth or cost you more that just pennies. And while the phrase, “A penny for your thoughts” might call up warm and fuzzy feelings for those who have emphatically asked for your thoughts in the past, when it comes to developing web sites with the user’s goals in mind; our intuition or gut feelings that are elicited at the drop of a hat are best left to professionals.

I am always amused (to put it very, very lightly) when in the course of hammering out usability issues to be assaulted with the cognitive lynching rope of “Trust me” as an effort to grab a sense of presumed authority in the hopes of terminating, a constructive, passionate discourse at the users expense. Viewing heuristics as a shortcut to making judgments quickly brings to mind an individual caught in their “terrible two’s” being able to instantly respond with either “why” or “no” to every parental statement uttered in their direction. Quick responses conjure up the potential for “Haste makes waste” in my mind.

But to be fair I am also reminded of the concept, “Be fast to think, but slow to react”. I think of the all wise, master Jedi himself, Yoda and his frequent response of “Hmmmmmmm”.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the value of mental shortcuts by highly trained professionals acting on solid, established principles. Like a firefighter who knows just when it’s time to get out. Or a lifeguard when they grab the buoy knowing it’s just not looking to good. I trust Kobe Bryant to know when a bob is better than a weave on his way to the basket.

So let’s hear it for those seasoned individuals who are able to look at user interaction design and just knows that when a stakeholder insists that the best place to put a search box is not in the footer. As a UI and UX geek, I have spent countless hours reading books and posts by other seasoned professionals as we have discussed best practices. You know best practices as in unless there is a really good reason why the search box should not go near the upper right-hand corner of a web page, it maybe should keep going there, since after all that is where most users go looking for it, or when to begin challenging how something has been done in the past, that was based on past technology. But you know; now we have new technology that appears to provide additional user functionality, so we should consider using it right? Well, it depends. Or as Yoda might say, hmmmmmmmmmm.

Could turning on a dime be worth a dollar? Or could it cost you a dollar? Well, it depends on who’s going to be left picking up the tab.

Editors note, as always, I write to explore ideas and process applying concepts to situations. Reading what I write could involve tremendous resources of cognitive multitasking and require a desire to embrace ambiguity and ambivalence.


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