Sunday, November 28, 2010

Usability issue with Youtube and MS Outlook

I am no usability expert, nor a PhD in HCI. I am just another tech savvy, maybe a more concerned one. This post is a rant against two most popular and religiously used applications: Youtube and Outlook. I am so frustrated of the usability bugs in these applications, that i am writing this post hoping to get some relief and a fix from these bugs soon.

Youtube: Smart Resolution
Present your user with minimal number of options and make decisions for them wherever possible. This seems like a magic usability-voodoo that works most of the times, but sadly not for Youtube. It goes something like this for Youtube: I click on a video, and it opens up nice with a 360px resolution (atleast with my browser and connection). I am watching this 1 hour video which has almost buffered completely and i decide to go full screen. Whoa! Youtube decides for you that the video resolution must be changed to 480px or more for a better video experience. I loose all my buffered video, and at times when my internet speed just sucks, it is freaking frustrating and i click on the 360px option again to buffer it all over again. This just sucks.

There might be some advanced option to fix it if i login into Youtube which i never feel like doing, nor i have done it. But this doesn't work for me and i am guessing it doesn't works for most of the users.

If the video buffered seamlessly, this would have been charming, but it isn't. This certainly needs a fix. I would suggest a different buffer to buffer the high resolution video and when the video is available to play, just switch to the high res video. This might seem like a bit of over engineered usability, but thats how i think it should be.

Outlook: Don't mess with the usuals
This is again one of the things which can possibly be fixed but is very irritating. This one is about messing with the hotkeys. I am reading an old mail (a long one) and i need to find something in that mail and i go Ctrl-F. To the utter surprise, Ctrl-F doesn't brings up a find-window, it forwards my mail. That is so against the rules of usability and intuition. If you use Outlook, you must have encountered this at some point of time, and unlike many i cant make my mind with this. Hotkeys and controls should work the way they work in all other applications, maintaining the usability and intuitions.

Lessons to carry away:
1. If you make decisions on behalf of your users for a better user-experience, make sure you test it well with various real-time scenarios your users use your application in.
2. Keep things intuitive.

Would love to have you comments, feedback, and a fix if you are working on these products.

1 comment:

  1. I hate the change of hotkeys: that's a hard one to change: something I would like is more hotkeys on web apps: intelligent ones please!

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