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What do you want to do?

A critical component of user interface design is understanding what the user is trying to accomplish. One of my customers has discovered the hard way that their attempts to add new features and functionality to one of their web applications has actually had the opposite effect - it has made the system less usable and more confusing.

Originally this application was designed to search and display property information. At one point, the customer decided they wanted to add vacancy information to this application. On the one hand, this was the right idea - vacancy information was much more important to end-users than property data. Originally, the idea was to allow users to select the type of search they wanted to execute (property data or vacancy data). Eventually, it was decided to merge this into one.

Unfortunately, the results have been confusing for everyone, even my customer! Users are frustrated and so is the customer.

When you make modifications to an application, it is really important for everyone involved to take a step back and ask "what is the goal?" Trying to cram more things onto an existing form or application may not be the right answer.

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