How often is it used?

It's a great question for making our web design better. We anchor tons of things online that people are unable or unwilling to pull. A large percentage of them remain unused which is a kind of waste—one of features, code, time and emotion. This can be avoided simply through more frequent questioning.

Let's consider programs like Photoshop or Dreamweaver. What percentage of their features do we use regularly? If we hypothetically use only 20% of the features in 80% of the time, this means that for every feature we discard, there are on the average four others when presented with an option to choose. Due to this increased choice, we can't do our job immediately.

We use many things just once, which is why "Is it used?" is not enough. Consider the "Sign up" and "Sign in" buttons for example. We need customers to sign up today, and this button will be frequently used, which is why we make it bigger. But although customers will sign up, each of them will do it once. After that, they'll only sign in. Now, we'll compare the number of uses for both buttons if we have 100 users and each of them signs in on the average 5 times. On the "Sign up" button we'll have 100 clicks, whereas on the "Sign in" button we'll have 500 clicks. This shows that the decision to make the sign up button more prominent wasn't of long-term interest. Where possible, we should strive to compare the relative importance of individual page elements on a per user basis.

Once I saw a video presentation of a new mobile web application. It tried to accommodate datasets on separate screens with users flipping through them with touch gestures. Seeing an animation once is pleasing, but it quickly becomes disturbing when we have to switch screens to find the right one. This is again a question of how often a function is used. We couldn't simply jump to the desired screen without going through the other ones first. This resulted in extensive animations that didn't help people accomplish their tasks. Animations aren't immediate, because time is their determinant. They will always be slower than simply showing an immediately accessible content.

We need a better way to utilize the visitor's attention. Right now, it's scattered through multiple screens of options. We could at least offer our users the option to turn off features they don't use. This will practically clean up the interface and make the application more user-friendly.

bit.ly/X1IRE2