The command line/search box as the solution to everything

02Jun09
Why choose? Join the top two ones...

Why choose? Join the top two ones...

Lately I have been looking into the possibilities of merging the command line and the search box. Remember that nice black screen with the flashing white cursor?

The promise of the blinking cursor

Having loads of options in front of you, but no idea which ones? You could do whatever you want, but first you had to read the manual. But after you learned it all you felt great, you mastered it all and, oh, those poor people that had no idea…

Well, that same motivating effect happens when you are dealing with very technical savy users like system administrators. Give them something too “marketing” or something too easy to learn with no possibility to learn and A, they won’t learn and B, they don’t like it.

Why semi-difficult can be better

As mentioned in a research by Christof van Nimwegen sometimes you need to force users to learn, because like that next time they will be faster and the overall user experience will be better. This is by nomeans a motivation to get sloppy in UXdesign, but it shows you that you have to think about “what happens after the user knows the interface?”.

Do you offer a solution to learn more, extend the application, continue learning?

Phases of learning: The Next Step

If you want to keep users chained to your app I think you always need to have a next step, a new thing to learn and a very cost effective way is using the forgiving command line/search.

You type, You solve

Why is this so great? Well, you use Google all day? Why? Because you have a question? Maybe because it is soo simple? But Yahoo is too? But is that all? No, you have a problem to solve. So why not merge the search and the command line?

For example: you want to know what the time is in Tokyo. You use Google and it offers you a lot of pages. You have to search through them which takes time and after checking some pages you find the answer.

In your applications you can be more specific, offer better semantics. If you have a map application it is rather obvious they are searching for a place, in Microsoft Word people would search for a feature or an explanation on how to do something.

Offer the last step of learning in the shape of the search/commandline. Let them type what they want to do and then make your application do it. Be forgiving, avoid the well known “BAD SYNTAX” message. You can extend and make it as huge as you want, without confusing the user, keep them learning and in the mean time offer them a faster way to use your application.

Told you, the forgiving command line is the future….

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One Response to “The command line/search box as the solution to everything”

  1. advanced smart command line is great for computer geeks of various kinds. but you have to keep in mind what action you design for. system administrators also appreciate simplicity for actions like signup, online shopping and booking, whatever. that said you also have to know your users and commercial goals. btw typical google interface looks like gmail or advanced search which kind of resemble the 3rd interface in the pic. 🙂


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