Monday, March 17, 2008

In "reverse"...

I will openly admit to being fairly new to the blogosphere and it's accompanying tools. I haven't done much other than commenting to various blogs and a savage amount of blog-reading. I use Google Reader as my aggregator for RSS-based content so I can have a consistent user experience whether I'm on my Mac at work or my Windows system at home. Again, being a blog-newb I'm not privy to all the small nuances of the different tools available.

I just happened to stumble across an interesting user experience juggle for lack of a better term, while perusing some feeds. Normally, when a user taps the space bar while viewing a web page, the browser will scroll down a portion of the page, while holding down the shift key along with the space bar will move the page in reverse. Not so in the Google Reader product. When hitting the key combination shift + space bar, the reader hops back up to the top of each blog/news entry in the page. Neat!

This isn't some kind of ground-breaking change and I'd assume that there are plenty of UI experts who would staunchly oppose this change due to breaking user expected patterns of behavior. But I applaud the Google team for their focus on the user experience. It doesn't hurt me at all that I might need to scroll back down to a particular section of a post if I happen to be keyboard navigating the page. How much more valuable is it for me (and perhaps time-saving), for the Google Reader to hop back to the top each entry? I thought this a great example of putting the user, and their current task, first in the experience - kudos to the Google Reader team.

The Palm OS tends to really get this right, at least in my mind. Rather than having to save my progress, a Palm device automatically does so because I'm moving to a new task. Just got me thinking about how we, as developers, could sincerely focus on the user experience and the particular task they might be involved with at different points within an application...

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