"Smart" cut-and-pasting just isn't

If you haven’t encountered “smart” pasting, here’s what happens. You copy some text or a URL from your Web browser, paste it into your code or an IM, then find that the site somehow added extra text to it.

I love love love the New Yorker — so well-written and well-edited — and I am horrified to learn (via SVN) that they have installed this atrocity.

What makes this a usability mistake? It behaves in a way that you don’t expect. If you’re going to break expectations, the bar is very high: You must delight people.

This particular trick too often ends up annoying people. See the comments on the SVN post. No delight there that I can see…

Video Link: Steve Krug on Usability

Steve Krug is the best writer I’ve ever encountered on usability and Web design. His first book, Don’t Make Me Think, is one of two books on Web design I ever recommend. (I just ordered his second book, so that number could jump up to three.)

This 60-minute presentation is a little slow getting started, but if you’ve got the time, it’s a good overview from one of the clearest thinkers in the industry. Hat tip to Ryan at 37 Signals.

Link: Anyone Can Do Usability Research

I was surprised to see this, since Jakob Nielsen has a reputation for dedication to rigor and process in usability studies. His published studies are the gold standard of the industry. But sometimes he can give the impression that user testing should never be attempted at home.

In today’s Alertbox column, he says just the opposite:

Usability is like cooking: everybody needs the results, anybody can do it reasonably well with a bit of training, and yet it takes a master to produce a gourmet outcome.

I made the same point a while ago in a presentation I did for Forum One, where I walked through lots of shortcuts that still get good usability results, as well as the things you miss out on if you take those shortcuts.

Nielsen mentions several advantages to having a real expert conduct the tests. It’s worth adding another that I covered, and that he might not see as clearly given his perspective:

If you hire an expert, you get their perspective on where in the range people’s reactions fall, and how much attention you should pay to certain observations. For example, how worried should you be that people seemed to take a long time, even though they made the donation okay?

But that said, he’s absolutely right that you don’t need an expert every time, and it’s great to see such a respected researcher inviting amateurs into the kitchen.

User Testing on the Cheap

The folks at Forum One were great to work with — they put together a very polished event. Here’s the segment I did.

The topic proved so engaging that they’re exploring it again in a seminar this Nov. 5.

Note: The presentation only makes sense with the sound, so hit the play button and turn up your volume!