User Experience Design terminology question.
November 18, 2010 12:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find the words for a certain principle in user experience design. It's similar to "chartjunk" vs. "data ink" as described by Edward Tufte. Better explanation inside:

For a non-computer example, someone wants to use a car to transport themselves from A to B. Filling the car with gas is the equivalent of "chartjunk" in this example, because nobody buys a car for the purpose of filling it with gas.

For a computer example, consider Photoshop. My goal is to alter an image. There's also a bunch of stuff where I can re-size my windows and move my tools around, but that's all ____ because it's secondary to the goal of the program.

So, one of the principles of good UX design is to reduce the time and effort the user would need to spend on ____.

I'm pretty sure I read something that had a term for this. I've been flipping through the early chapters of About Face and Steve Krug's "Don't Make Me Think" and while they discuss related principles in terms of designing for goals rather than tasks, they don't seem to have any specific term for "activities or capabilities that aren't directly applicable to the goal."

Any ideas what I should use to describe these two elements?
posted by RobotHero to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by scodger at 12:08 PM on November 18, 2010

posted by zamboni at 12:11 PM on November 18, 2010

Best answer: I think the terms you're looking for are "revenue" and "excise", from About Face. I don't think those terms caught on to become any kind of industry standards, though. IMO the most widely-recognizeable word for this is "overhead".
posted by pocams at 12:14 PM on November 18, 2010

Response by poster: Pocams: I was definitely thinking of "excise." They even use the car example in chapter 11, "eliminating excise!" If I had just read the chapter titles I would have found it. Doy!
posted by RobotHero at 12:22 PM on November 18, 2010

Response by poster: I might use "overhead" when talking with clients, but "excise" when talking with developers and designers.
posted by RobotHero at 12:48 PM on November 18, 2010

Be prepared to do a lot of explaining if you do; the terms are not in common use, and most designers and developers will not know what you're talking about if you use them.

(My general feeling is that if you're going to use invented jargon, well first off try to stop doing that, but if you must, use words that don't already conflict with some other concept. I heard the term "yak-shaving" used in a real meeting once; nobody knew what the guy was talking about, but at least they knew they didn't know what he was talking about, you know? I'm certain that if I started talking about "revenue tasks" in my next client meeting everyone in the room would assume I was speaking about the product's profit model, and then be confused about why I wasn't coming to a point that had anything to do with the profit model.)
posted by ook at 1:26 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Never heard this use of excise. Interesting. The first word that comes to mind for me is "cruft"—Tufte himself talks about "administrative debris." But that might be slightly different from what you're talking about. Cruft is chrome; excise is features you aren't currently interested in.
posted by adamrice at 1:26 PM on November 18, 2010

Response by poster: Well, now that I know where it is in the book, I think I can make a shorter explanation than I gave in my OP. Excise is the extra work that satisfies the needs of our tools or of outside agents as we try to achieve our objectives.

Though "administrative debris" has a nice ring and feels a little more self-evident.
posted by RobotHero at 2:39 PM on November 18, 2010

I refer to these as "auxiliary tasks." Not sure if I made that up or got it from somewhere.
posted by Other at 6:27 PM on November 18, 2010

"Ancillary tasks" support the primary task you're trying to do.
posted by dws at 9:08 PM on November 18, 2010

It's probably hard to have a fixed word for this, because a single UI element can be extraneous time-wasting to one user, and a necessary step to accomplishing the task to another.

I think you are describing two different things as the same. The gasoline example is a requirement. There is no way to improve the product to not require gasoline.

But the moving around of windows, or overly complicated wizards or unstoppable "did you know?" pop-ups are all things that can be improved upon.

( BTW, excise is a bad word to use for this- I understand the point, it is a "tax" on accomplishing the goal. But that usage stems from the other meaning of the word, which is to cut. Unless you are actually going to cut it out. But if it is something you have to have, excise isnt the right word choice.)
posted by gjc at 8:22 AM on November 19, 2010

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