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Another usability question regarding Joels advice

<<Designing for People Who Have Better Things To Do With Their Lives>>

A sensible advice which i ignored. As mentioned previously, i am writing an SQL tool in which i have "Create index" facility.  I have often noticed novices (and even experts) creating indexes without thinking properly.  For instance, the free space of the index (PCTFREE) is always set to 10.  After a lot of research i discovered that increasing it to 20-30 will increase database performance dramatically during inserts. So i added a long helpful text in my "CREATE INDEX" screen.  Something like

"Often, a default value of 10% is not optimal. Increasing this value will speed up insert statements because of reduced page splits. Increasing it too much will cause more levels to be added in the B tree structure which offsets the gain due to reduced page splits.

This is not the only one. In my enthusiasm(This was my first program), i also discovered that ordering  columns makes a difference to the index performance. So i have another similiar advice (Equally lengthy). I have such "helpful" hints in 3-4 screens. All of them considerably slow down the time needed to do simple things(like creating an index)

I can go on. But from the feedback i got from the user, no one really cares about these kind of things. Instead, they are ecstatic about some of the other things which are simple(like a export facility to excel). What bothers me is that i have already implemented them. I dont know if some obscure user is actually using these hints and has not given me feedback.

Should i remove them?. Should i design only for the people  who dont give a damn to database performance or should i try improve the thinking of people?. On the other hand, someone (atleast 1 in 10) may actually learn and improve performance. I would be happy if it happens. HAving these hints(assuming they are read) will slow down the simple process of "Create index" a lot. On the other hand if someone reads them, he is likely to be very happy regarding the performance he got later on.

No one wants to go to the help file. So i thought putting it into the screens is good. I am not too sure now.....

Monday, March 15, 2004

If you already have a window that reads:
Index Creation:
Free Space ___%


Why not change it to
Index Creation:
Free Space:
(o) Use Recommended 25%
( ) Use Other ___%

You can even have an info widget there that links to the relevent pages in the Help documents which explains things further.  Users don't like to read, but they like tend to like defaulted options that make good sense.

Monday, March 15, 2004

The info widget is a good idea. I will try to implement it.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Add logging and you can tell what features
people are actually using.

son of parnas
Monday, March 15, 2004

The danger in your information is that it's deceptively incomplete ("enough information to be dangerous"), as you alluded to, which is the nature of the beast when one tries to distill a fairly complex topic (such as free space preservation) down to a sentence.  As a sidenote, my experience has been exactly the opposite, and given that most tables are scanned many orders of magnitude more than they're altered, the minimal free space is optimal.

Dennis Forbes
Monday, March 15, 2004

Put the useful messages in a "Tip of the Day" window that they see when they start the program.  This way it doesn't interfere with the task of creating an index, people who don't care can (and will) easily ignore it, and yet it might still catch someone's eye who cares.

Monday, March 15, 2004

I'm with Lou.  Give a recommendation, and next to it one of those little "Why?" links that explains for those who are curious; then give an option for the user to be stubborn and use his/her own number like 10% as well.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Your program should behave like a good consultant:

I want a recommendation and option to choose something else.

The suggestion above (recommended setting, or other value choices) is EXCELLENT.

Remember: users do not (like to) read.

Imagine your working on some detail oriented task that you DO NOT LIKE doing.  Your accountant can either explain in depth your 3 choices, or he can make a recommendation and let you ask him if you want more info. 

Offering a recommendation is extremely helpful to 98% of your users and causes no distress to the remaining 2%.

And it's easier than trying to explain something complex in on paragraph.

Mr. Analogy  (formerly The real Entrepreneur)
Monday, March 15, 2004

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