Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Our Hairy Friend and Inattentional Blindness

So...some interesting results from the last post. I think that more people counted 14 passes than anything, although I think it is really 15. There's one hand off that's a bit hard to see. In any case, the number of passes really doesn't matter. What does matter is the fact that a lot of you didn't even see the gorilla walk through the video while you were intent on your task of counting passes of the basketball.

(If at this point you are saying, "What Gorilla???!!!", go ahead and watch the video again, not focusing on anything in particular this time, and be amazed. :-)

So, why did so many of us not even recognize the fact that a guy in a gorilla costume walked through the middle of the clip and beat his chest? The answer lies in how our brain works. In particular, it demonstrates a phenomenon called inattentional blindness...not being able to see things that are actually there.

There's a lot of good information available on the internet and in books on this subject, so I won't rehash it here. What I do want to point out is that you can use your knowledge of this phenomenon when you are thinking about the design of your applications.

Doug hit the nail on the head in the comments when he said "Or in Notes-land; What do you mean, you didn't see that grey button on the grey background sitting right there in front of your face at the top of the screen mixed in with all of that color and action on the rest of the form? You know the one that says 'HELP'? Weren't you LOOKING????"

I have found on numerous occasions where a user missed an important interface element due to innattentional blindness. In every case, the UI was so cluttered and complex that they really had to concentrate on accomplishing the task at hand. When they needed a certain function (that big button in the middle of the screen flashing "Click Me...Click Me"!), they completely overlooked it because their focus was elsewhere.

Being that I'm operating on only a few hours of sleep over the last couple of days, I'll cut to the chase. This experiment that you just went through should help reiterate the fact that your interface needs to be fine tuned so that the users can see and find the elements they need when they need them. For me, I'm a big fan of the concept of "less is more". As I'm working on a prototype, I make elements fight for their lives to get on the page. I attempt to keep things as basic and streamlined as possible. When you can get rid of a lot of the visual noise and concentrate on designing the flow of the form so that it guides the user where they should go, amazing things happen.

Keep this video in mind as you work on future designs so that your users will clearly see the "monkey in the middle". And if you want to hear more of this UI mumbo jumbo, make sure you come to BP214, BP216 and BP217 at the 'sphere!

P.S. If you have an app that needs some help, bring it to Lotusphere and maybe someone can help get you started down the right path. Details in the next post.

1 comment:

Ed said...

Why didn't I think of this? This explains why the action buttons with gorilla icons that I use in all my forms never get used! I'll try a different animal and see what happens.