On the Appropriateness of Alternatives
As an app developer, I am growing to understand the importance of the learnability of software. Giving a user access to each part of an app at all times is one thing, but what happens when the user has multiple options for navigating to a given page?
It’s easy to take the functionality for granted when you’re the one developing the software. I worked on an iPad app which was laid out in a way to give the user the same information in two different views (but that’s for another topic). The information on the main screen was organized into categories and the way to access the second view was to tap on the heading of a category. Once in this view, the user could go back to the main screen by tapping the heading again or by tapping a button on the edge of the screen. Did I mention that the user could also get to the second view by tapping the name of the category on the bottom of the first screen?
This design might work for giving the user an alternative if he/she doesn’t realize that the same action can reverse the initial one. However, putting the alternatives in different locations will likely confuse more than help the user. A better approach would be to place both alternative buttons in the same position for both views. Consistency is one of the golden principles of usability and is one that becomes all the more important in the mobile world. This is just one simple example of ways it can be implemented to improve real software.