Holy cow, I wrote a book!
a second subtlety
the basic principle that determines
which programs show up in the Start menu:
Each time you launch a program, it "earns a point", and
the longer you don't launch a program, the more points it loses.
Since programs earn points and not shortcuts,
a program can earn points even if you don't use the Start menu
to run it.
In usability studies, we often see people who run programs
by digging through their Program Files directory until
they find an icon that looks promising and then double-click it.
If there is a shortcut on the All Programs section of the
Start menu that points to the same
program, then that shortcut will eventually work its way onto
the front page, assuming the user runs the program often enough.
This is why you will see a program appear on the front page of
the Start menu even though you never ran it from the Start menu.
The program earned points because you ran the program manually,
or because you opened a document that is associated
with that program.
Promoting a program run this way helps users realize that
they can run Backgammon from the Start menu instead of having
to open My Computer, then click on my C drive,
then click on Program Files, then MSN Gaming Zone,
then Windows, and then double-click the icon with the strange name
I've seen usability sessions where the users did this repeatedly,
and they considered it perfectly normal, albeit frustrating.
"Computers are so hard to use."
Next time, we'll look at how the pin list influences the
list of frequently-used programs.