Predictability of a function

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Jul 30, 2019

A little bit about usability. A good portion of designers does not understand the importance of predictability of a function. This short article is aimed to explain the underestimated role of being predictable.

Predictability is all about knowing in advance or feeling the upcoming event. Often, predictable means boring, but not when it comes to usability. Users interact with products in order to achieve a result. The interface should be structured the way user archives the desired result in a quick and effortless manner, unless it is the product that is challenging those parameters, for example a game.

Predictable is good when the user works with a text editing tool or medical application. As an example, the user clicks on a button he estimates, expects, or knows what will happen next. Awkward, unpredictable behavior will take away the user from his goal. Interface elements, in case of productivity driven software, should clearly communicate the functionality behind them. It is a broken user experience or bad product behavior when something unexpected happens.

Planning the interface designer has to think about good and bad, positive and negative effects of the predictability. Using unexpected behavior designer has two simple outcomes to play with, bad and good. Where "good" is set to be a surprise which is unexpected, although positive. Meaning, something magical happened and the user achieved the wanted result. Bad is when a destructive, unexpected action happens, taking the user from the planned goal.

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