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Monday, July 20, 2009

Why don’t form owners listen to experts?

One of the biggest problems I have had over the years has been end users of forms and systems not accepting expert advice. It particularly applies to form and system owners in government departments, although it is also prevalent in large corporations.

The “owners” or “sponsors” think that because they deal with end users on a regular basis that they know what’s best. Usability testing and other research shows that they generally don’t know—the trouble is that they don’t know that they don’t know. They end up ignoring the advice and wonder later why things go wrong with their system. If people make errors filling in the forms, they blame the form fillers rather than themselves.

Yesterday I came across an excellent article by Jakob Nielsen on the subject. While it deals specifically with web design, the issues he raises are just as applicable to any system, paper or electronic and to any form.

The article is called “Building Respect for Usability Expertise” and I highly recommend it.