Recognition vs. Recall in Everyday Items by Kristen Faulkner

Design Heuristic: Recognition rather than recall

(One of the original 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design by Jakob Nielsen)

    1. Item that exemplifies the heuristic: Mac keyboard cover









This is a macbook keyboard cover. If you look closely, you see that it is not a standard keyboard. Instead, each key has color coding text to help the user remember “keyboard shortcuts”. The blue text describes primary Mac OS shortcuts. The pink and green text describes Safari and Finder keyboard shortcuts. As a user, I never need to spend time memorizing all the shortcuts on a keyboard or searching google for them; they are right in front of me! This is a perfect example of an item that utilizes “Recognition rather than recall.” Other keyboard covers show shortcuts for Photoshop, Excel, and other Office applications. You can switch your cover depending on what programs you are using!

    1. Item that poorly exemplifies the heuristic: sewing machine










I have no idea how to setup and use this sewing machine. Where does the thread go? Do I need to wrap the thread around anything? Do I need to tie a knot somewhere? How do I turn the machine on and off?  Most people who use sewing machines have someone teach them how to use it, and then they remember how to use it for next time. Very few people learn how to sew from reading a manual because the manuals are also confusing. I certainly don’t know anyone who has ever looked at a sewing machine and thought, “Wow, it’s so intuitive!”

    1. My improved Sewing Machine that conforms with “recognition rather than recall”

sewing machine redrawing copy

My new & improved sewing machine has a side panel with a touch screen, thus eliminating the need for 3D buttons. Similar to an iphone, the user clicks on icons for more information. If the user clicks on “stitches,” he or she can choose which stich pattern to tell the machine to make. The user can also select “zippers, buttons, and special items” for more specific stitch types. If the user clicks on “blueprints”, she can view blueprints of items such as a t-shirt or scarf. When connected to wifi, he/she can even download other blueprints from the app store. When the user selects a particular blueprint, the machine will walk the user through making the item step by step, and automatically set the appropriate settings on the machine for each step.

In addition to the digital makeover, the buttons on my new machine are intuitive, consistent with the real world, and similar to familiar items such as iphones and tablets. There are no removable parts other than the spool of thread, and there are fewer breakable parts. The spool of thread is inserted at the top into a hole, so it doesn’t stick out and get tangled with anything. The machine can hold several spools of thread at once, and the user can use the screen to select which color they want at any given time (like a cd drive in a car, the user can switch between thread colors easily, without having to remove the spool each time). The machine can be activated using voice commands, or it can be used with a wireless pedal. Finally, the on/off switch is  visibly and conveniently located, with clear labels.

About the author: faulkner

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