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AzamSharp Some day I will know everything. I hope that day never comes.

Some time back I was working on a web application which was used to give out exams to the students. Teachers can log in and create their own exam and release it to the students. After some time we realized that most of the teachers were not releasing the exam to the students hence students were not able to take the exam.

A solution was suggested that why not create copies of the exam for instructor when the admin uploads the exam and assigns it automatically to the students. This idea had disaster written all over it. Primarily because, creating so many exams and then assigning to all the students atomically was not a light task.

Another long term problem was that now since the teachers were not responsible for creating their exams they have become handicapped of the exam building feature. They will always assume that the exams will be created for them and not by them. This leaves few poor students without any exams who registered late and were not assigned by the auto-assigning module. Although teachers can assign the exam to these students using the “Assign Exam to Student” feature but they are illiterate of this feature because the exams were assigned automatically.

Another aspect of making the users handicapped is displaying long user interface messages. Let’s say that you want to report an issue/feedback to the technical support by filling out a form. Our current form looks something like this:

Please fill in your details and write the descriptive message of the error. Don’t forget to include your email address. If email is not provided then we won’t be able to contact you and resolve the issue. […….. goes on….]

In my opinion this is just too much information to read. There is no way a student will ever read the complete paragraph. A simpler way is to just provide the form itself and do the validation to print the user interface messages. Like email required, FirstName required etc.

The idea of this post is not to make your users think about the website but to only provide them with the necessary guidance that they need to complete the task. Don't try to dissolve them in extra instructions. Less is more!   

Posted on Monday, May 12, 2008 3:41 AM | Back to top

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