Usability Institue Logo- A bolt that can be fastened with any of 4 tools
Usability Consulting, Specializing in Schools and Non-Profits
Reducing Training to Its Eventual Minimum... Zero?
Home Page- List of All Content Home Page- All content, in date order Resources: page describing tools you can use Morsels: just our short articles and blurbs Just our Before&After Articles About: details on who I am and what I do Address, phone, number,  and so on
Check out these items that can help you conquer unfriendly software:
arrow Function Tree
Destined to be an industry classic, a consolidated hierarchy of all generic software function.
arrow Results Tree
I'm not settled on the name yet, but the content is incontrovertable: afford these results or vanish.
arrow GenericUI
Style sheet and hundreds of design elements for serious data applications in a browser
arrow Website Survival Checklist
33 vital signs for every website's health
arrow Computer User's
Bill of Rights

8 rules of the of user-in-yourface common sense
arrow Winning the Business Softwar
Our 46-page book, absotively free
arrow Free Usability Criteria for RFPs
Put this text right in your Requests for Proposals, no strings attached.
  Full list of resources...

About Usability


Jack Bellis, 10-years a technical writer with an emphasis on multimedia and graphics, now working primarily in usable interface design. Over the years, I've also...

  • Done some coding, including having written in 16 different languages and supporting myself with my own product, SIMAX VIDEO SIGNMAKER, for a while. As the review shows, even in 1983 (yikes!) I understood how to make a program that "will not allow you to press an incorrect key."
  • Installed over 100 point of sale systems and trained the users.
  • Participated in 25 projects for all of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies, producing documents, help, CBT, Web-based training, and Web design. Full resume...

Usability consulting without making it more complicated than it needs to be. No lengthy documents or fancy labs, just smart, concise advice, at-a-distance or at your place. Here's the premise:

  • Computers are a worst-case-scenario of an invisible technology: electronics. Users aren't dumb, they just need a fighting chance.
  • Problems with UI design will not be solved by more technology or testingónot that there's anything wrong with thatóbut by straightforward thinking and words.
  • Usability testing is nice stuff, but we believe that in the same way that your best algorithmic thinkers always know the best code, we usually have a good idea of your design solutions. Think about it, even if you spend $100,000 for a formal usability test and find some flaws, someone has to decide what the solution is (or at least a list of options), right? I've been studying the solutions since that '83 project. It's called interaction design, and though there's plenty of creativity in it, most solutions are already out there, just waiting to be put in the proper place. There are billions of web sites and pages; do you think most problems are going to require new solutions?

Just like the quote at the bottom of the page, it's time to put the instructions right into the system. Anything less, like help files or user manuals is subterfuge at best, and at worst a slow death for what might otherwise be a good system. Even good techwriting is equivalent to "closing the barn door after the horse has run."


Now that's a silly question these days, isn't it? If not, here's the info: I'm in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA (East Coast, GMT-5).


Send me a link, a bitmap, a fax, or a brick-and-mortar address. I'll be there.

The lion's share of usability improvements can be accomplished just by improving words on the screen. Only occasionally does architecture really need to be touched. In between these two extremes are myriad visual and navigation improvements, comprising interaction design.

When? Now.


"My interest in usability arose from the pain and tears of patching the wounds of suffering interface designs with the inadequate bandages of help files and user guides." — Daniel Cohen

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