Jakob Nielsen posted a new article yesterday that had me checking all my sites immediately afterwards. His article, Closeness of Actions and Objects in GUI Design. The lesson? Stop hiding user functions in plain site.
In his article he uses an Apple product as the example on what not to do. Yes, Apple! There was a couple of other lessons I got out it as well.
Obvious to Designer, Not Obvious to New Users
Grouping like items, or related content in close proximity is an obvious tip. Here is a simple example. Imagine there was a check box on this site that could stop the banners from being displayed. Would you expect to find that check box on the bottom right of this post, or next to the ads?
The first lesson, put things where users would expect to find them, typically nearby.
The second lesson that this article reveals is keeping your user interface dedicated for its purpose. When Jakob uses Apple as the example he shows how the application fails. Apple was using a default/same user interface to manage both music and applications for the device. Though it worked great for managing music, it was a failure for managing applications.
The third lesson that I got out of the article was the reminder that as a web designer we must remember the user. They do not know the interface like we do. What is obvious to us, may be completely hidden to a new user.