Helper Posture

Examples: Context:  The activity supported by the artifact is secondary to other activities, but will occasionally require the user's full attention for a short time.

Problem:  How should this artifact relate spatially to other artifacts that might share its space, and how can it best use the space it has?


Solution:  Use as much space as needed to make it comprehensible, but no more; focus tightly on the activity by excluding all but the commonest actions, information, etc. from the top level, but let those common ones take whatever space they need. Use terminology and images familiar to the user to describe these actions.  Don't be afraid of verbosity -- no one will go read a manual to figure out a Helper Posture artifact, so what's there has to suffice!  As Alan Cooper points out, you may also use brighter colors and larger graphic elements than you would use for a Sovereign Posture artifact, because the user won't see it for long enough to become irritated.  In fact, they may use it so little that they forget how to use it between times; design it with new users in mind.

Always remember that the user's primary interest is in some other activity.  When planning for the user's possible interactions with the artifact, you should assume that the user may stop using it at any time to return to their primary activity.  Remembered State may be a helpful pattern to use, if the user may lose a significant amount of effort by abruptly stopping or shutting down the Helper Posture artifact.

Resulting Context:  As with Sovereign Posture, the resulting context depends heavily upon which primary pattern you're building the artifact around.  Still, activities supported by this pattern are generally pretty simple, so you can make the artifact's usage perfectly obvious by using patterns like Step-by-step Instructions (a common primary pattern for a Helper Posture artifact) and Optional Detail On Demand.  Use Convenient Environment Actions, of course, and Disabled Irrelevant Things can help narrow down the user's available set of actions even more than you've already done in the design of the artifact.

Notes:  Adapted from "About Face," by Alan Cooper.  He called this pattern "Transient Posture."

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Last modified May 17, 1999

Copyright (c) 1999 by Jenifer Tidwell.  All rights reserved.