Tag Archives: usability

What we can learn from the Defiant Dog

Ian Broyles‘ amusing one-page site Defiantdog.com features a photo of a dog, and a button containing the word “sit”. This is fabulously funny, considering that nothing (visible) happens when one clicks the button.

A photo of a dog standing, with a button labeled Sit.

I didn’t think much about it until Vasilis van Gemert posted about it and Ian published some stats; at that point in time visitors clicked an average of 23 times per visit. 23 times is a lot of clicking, which means some conditioning and expectation are at work.

As pattern-seeking beings, we tend to follow our conditioning. A button must be there for a reason—let’s click it. It says “sit”, therefore the dog will probably sit, won’t it? 23 clicks on average indicates to me that the average user is not considering whether this is just an image or instead some type of interactive movie. 23 clicks indicates bell/salivate. Button/action-expectation.

Let’s say you have javascript disabled, for whatever reason. You fill out a form. You click the submit button, not knowing that in this case the developer has made a javascript-dependent button (this is common). You might say you have encountered a Defiant Dog: something which doesn’t do as it’s told, or doesn’t react according to expectations.

Ian’s fun experiment confirms two things which many of us know but are always worth repeating:

  1. When users expect things to happen on our websites, it’s most likely that we have done something to trigger those expectations
  2. Users will almost always think it’s their own fault (and may even click 23 times before deciding it’s not)

It’s been said that without expectation, there is no disappointment. While not a new idea, this take-away from the Defiant Dog is still timely, as you’ll notice anytime you see something you think should be clickable but isn’t. Or when a relationship is falsely implied between multiple UI elements.

Managing expectations is a design problem. It’s up to us as web designers to find the defiant dogs in our websites and applications, and get them to sit.

Presentations in November

It’s been a very busy few months, and November is no exception. In addition to an unholy amount of client work at Cinnamon, this month has brought a couple of speaking engagements.

On November 8th I had the privilege of taking part in a panel discussion at the eNederland conference about web accessibility and the new Quality Model for Websites. The Quality Model is heavily based on the Dutch Web Guidelines for government websites, and is an effort to encourage businesses to conform to accessibility and usability best practices. Other members of the panel were Gerlach Cerfontaine (President and CEO of Schiphol Group) , Rabobank ICT-manager Harrie Vollard and Thuiswinkel.org director Wijnand Jongen. There is a photo and a summary (in Dutch) at the website of the Taskforce for Handicap and Society, one of the initiators of the Quality Model project.

Next Thursday (November 29th), I’ll be doing a presentation for Logeion Association for Communication on real-world application of accessibility and usability guidelines, and the impact on online communication. Ruben Timmerman will present some case studies on the business application of usability principles. More information is available (in Dutch) at the Logeion website.