A interface design element that often is embraced by developers is discoverability. This is the approach of forcing users to see or discover various features.

A nice thought that often fails.

Tech savvy users will explore and discover additional features. The majority of users will not. For most users sane defaults are needed. Nothing more. Forcing unskilled users to “discover” features is like teaching pigs to sing — you waste your time and irritate the pig.

There are two long standing examples.

One is a default of four virtual desktops or workspaces. A significant number of users never use more than one or two software apps at any time. The idea of using multiple desktops is strange and foreign to many users. Discoverability does not require four workspace slots consuming panel space. At most two would suffice to satisfy discoverability, but most people do not need or want any.

Another example is throwing a terminal window icon button into the panel quick launch area. Most users are not going down that road. Stop pestering such users.

In many ways discoverability is mostly about developer egos. Developer egos need to step aside and not force all users to discover features that are too advanced or confusing to most users. Just let people use their computers.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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