NONparametrics

geekdom without assumption
NONparametrics

Interface tuning

Alyssa sent me a really cool article on interface design today. I resonate with this one particularly because simplicity in software and SaaS (Software as a Service) is one of my standard soap-boxes. I believe that a large part of the gap between techies and the real world can be attributed to the complexity that we blast the poor non-techies with–real or perceived. I definitely recommend that you read it, if you have the time.

The article mentions the 80/20 rule of feature use, and that got me to thinking of something I’d seen in the Piwik plug-ins directory: clickheat. I looked it up out of curiosity, and not ten minutes later I had a copy running, logging clicks on my development system. Our system is resource based (having several hundered individually assigned/authorized resources), and each user is presented with a menu tailored to the features that they have access to. That gives us a pretty good edge on keeping things simple, but even so I know that there are well-intentioned features that can get in the way; as such I’m not about to turn down any intelligence available to me.

Clickheat–like it sounds–logs all the clicks on whatever page you add it to, and then does some geometric math to overlay a heat pattern on a copy of the webpage; the result? A graphical representaion of what users are doing on any given page, overlaid on the actual page that clickheat fetches with javascript.

A "thermal" map of clicks overlaid on the page

A "thermal" map of clicks overlaid on the page

To be perfectly candid, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to figure out, but it sure wasn’t bad. You have to do a couple of simple things (like setting a site name in the javascript tag before pasting it into your html, and deciding how to group pages for logging) and the documentation leaves much to be desired, but all in all it was worth a few moments that it took to install. It will be great when this tool matures a little and possibly adds a database back-end (right now it’s all file logging), but in the mean time it will still provide interesting use information to help us reduce the effort for our users to find and access what they really want: that golden 20.

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