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Interaction conventions and ergonomics

By: Ciaran Levingston
Date: July, 2013
File under: Articles

We test some really innovative interfaces for our Clients and we love getting our hands on something exciting and new. On occasion we come across issues where an innovative design has broken established interaction conventions causing difficulty. When we bring this feedback to Clients we are sometimes met with resistance because they feel that meeting conventions restricts their creativity and hurts the experience that they want their users to have.

In doing user testing across interfaces that range from very standard information sites to really interactive and innovative interfaces we have observed that users’ expectations stem from the design conventions that they have encountered when using the web. Meeting these expectations is not so much a matter of following convention but making the website ergonomic in the same way that an ergonomic object (that is designed to fit the physical attributes of the user) is more pleasurable, comfortable and intuitive to use.

Conventions can be broken and the interface can still be usable, however, this tends to be the exception rather than the rule.   The most innovative and usable interfaces build an exciting and fresh experience around established user behaviours rather than trying to break the user of their habits. Keep these conventions in mind when building an ergonomic interface:

  1. Search lives in the top right hand corner and the logo in the top left
  2. Visually align related navigation menus and avoiding placing unrelated actions that in-between them that confuse the  relationship between them
  3. Use consistent menu placement
  4. Breadcrumbs are used for orientation and moving back, not onward navigation
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