I'm taking in a morning session, "Effective Web 2.0 Interface Design Patterns," being presented by James Hobart. It's an interesting demonstration of pitfalls of Ajax-based application design and how to avoid them.
The most important part of any interface design is flow. James listed eight attributes of good flow when performing a task.
Clear goalsConcentrating and focusingImmersion (distorted sense of time)Loss of feeling self-consciousDirect and immediate feedbackBalance between ability and levelSense of controlIntrinsically rewarding activity
What makes this session unique is that he shows real examples. Not just sites with problems, but actual videotaped usability sessions where people try to use features on the site he's demoing. The most common theme (often unsaid) is that people think "My mental map of how I would perform these tasks is different."
The usability testers are also having problems with terminology on the sites. It's an important, and well-presented, topic. When you implement cool new technology, don't forget what the user actually needs from your app or site. It's not a "training issue" when someone can't figure out your Web site.
- Josh T