Engelbart’s Usability Dilemma: Efficiency vs Ease-of-Use
— The mouse was the original idea of Doug Engelbart who was the head of the Augmentation Research Center (ARC) at Stanford Research Institute. Engelbart’s philosophy is best embodied, in my opinion, in the design of another device that he invented, the five-finger keyboard – with keys like a piano, used by one hand. The problem was, Engelbart’s five-finger keyboard and mouse combination was very difficult to learn.
Just reiterated to me that while you may come up with the most efficient design it still may have too high of a learning curve for the average user to every approach and use your web app. Definitely something to keep in mind as you design your web apps, it needs to be the balance between the efficient design and the easy-to-use product that people want to use. And for web applications that first visit impression is huge and can be the difference in whether the user even makes a return trip to your app.
I started using Picnik recently and everything about the site draws me back. The efficiency with which they are solving a particular user problem (the ability to quickly edit a photo on Flickr, or for blog posts) and the ease-of-use of the design (nice clean white buttons, that are enjoyable to use, with advanced features that are easy to play with, and yet not overpowering on first use). Picnik strikes the perfect balance between having lots of features but only showing you what you need to cover the 90% use case, and the other 10% can go under Advanced and see a menu full of additional features/functionality.