June 19th, 2012
 | Making Cents

Usability in Enterprise Applications .. Part III ("Progressive Disclosure")


hiding complexityIn continuation of the series on usability in enterprise applications, in this post I will address one of the questions evaluators of these applications should be asking - Is "Less is More" true for this application?


Another way of saying this is, easy things should be easy and obvious, and difficult things should be possible. We also refer to this as the progressive disclosure of complexity.


To quote usability guru Jakob Neilson - "Good usability includes ideas like progressive disclosure where you show a small number of features to the less experienced user to lower the hurdle of getting started and yet have a larger number of features available for the expert to call up".


The legacy applications were developed with a manufacturing centric business model in mind. A manufacturing-centric model has a lot of inherent complexity, and this complexity shows up in their user interfaces. For example, if a company needs to deal with only one chart of accounts, and a single currency, the application must make it very easy for the user to deal with this simple case.  The complexity of multiple charts of accounts and multiple currencies should be hidden from these types of users. However, it should be equally intuitive for the "power user" to be able to "discover" how the application supports the complex use cases.


Going back to Rams' 10 principles of good design, this approach stays true to the principles of good design "makes a product useful" and "is as little design as possible".


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