Alertbox: Reduce Redundancy

Reduce Redundancy: Decrease Duplicated Design Decisions

Summary: User interface complexity increases when a single feature or hypertext link is presented in multiple ways. Users rarely understand duplicates as such, and often waste time repeating efforts or visiting the same page twice by mistake.

Hmmm. I'm not so sure about this one. His first example talks about footnotes and endnotes in Microsoft Word and how there are too many options. I agree that there are a lot of features and it can be confusing to some people, but I don't understand how it relates to the topic. This feature is presented in one way; there is one way to get to this dialogue box, and the features that are available are indeed necessary. (I know many professors and academic journals are very specific about how they would like their footnotes and endnotes to be presented.)

Now, I could be wrong, but I thought redundancy is good. To copy text, for example, you highlight it and then can go to Edit --> Copy, or right-click (or option-click) and select Copy, or Control-C (or Apple-C). Yes, in a way, the complexity increases for programmers because you have multiple ways to perform the same task, but for the user, this redundancy is easier. Some people like using keyboard commands, some like right-clicking, and some use the menu bar for everything.

He does say that “one of the few cases where users actually benefit from a small amount of redundancy is in the navigational paths through an information architecture,” but then adds, “too many cross-references will create an overly complex interface and prevent users from understanding where they are and what options they have at that location.” How many is too many? Is an interface with lots of cross-references — like Flamenco or — bad or effective?

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Yet another overly simplistic gurule.

I hereby coin the term "gurule."

The problem isn't "too many cross-references" -- it's how they are designed, in what context, for what kind of content, for what types of users.

You could just as easily confuse users with 2-3 cross-references, if they weren't done well.

Redundancy is very good, depending on the context. When I'm at the Atlanta airport, I'm always grateful that there are several ways to make sure that i haven't passed my concourse. In my addled, tired state, it's easy to forget which one I just passed. So the little blinky signs in the train car are a big help. However, signs that say "you are now at Hartsfield International Airport" would be much less useful :-)

andrew hinton ::

gurule -- I like it

Can we coin gurubric as well?

JN conflates multiplicity with complexity --

"gurule" is the best I've heard in a long time!

I have so many issues with Nielsen's assessment, especially when his pronouncements come without test results, screenshots, etc.

My main irritation is that he's forever equating usability with the lack of intimidation. He's also conflating multiplicity with complexity, and sacrificing both on the altar of usability. I can think of several interfaces in which the presence of a duplicate link or action button saves me a step. One example: being able to hit "next" at the bottom of a page instead of scrolling back up past text (an email, search results, etc). Nielsen might consider that a symptom-solution rather than a "true" solution, but I would rather scroll down as I read and hit "next" than go back to perform the same action.

I wonder how many credible users were tested on this one. I also suspect that the rules of footnoting, much like other constructions (grammar, etc) vary according to what style guide the writer is using. This makes Nielsen's statement "this gives you a normal footnote" [my emphasis] strikingly inept, and seems to reflect a personal problem with the tool rather than a tested user outcome.

Personal irritations may jumpstart a study, but they don't equal a study.