More on Tryability: It’s an Attention Thing

Sometimes we spend a lot of time and effort doing various things that we don’t want to be doing because they just have to be done: Between yesterday and today I’ve spent 5 hours trying to get my wireless network working with the VoIP box Between yesterday and today I’ve spent 3 hours doing various […]

Sometimes we spend a lot of time and effort doing various things that we don’t want to be doing because they just have to be done:

  1. Between yesterday and today I’ve spent 5 hours trying to get my wireless network working with the VoIP box
  2. Between yesterday and today I’ve spent 3 hours doing various things with my car, taking it to the shop, calling about it, explaining how bad it is driving recently, etc.
  3. Recently I spent 8 hours trying to get rid of viruses on an old windows box at home. So frustrated, I gave up and asked Jason from work to do it, promising him a share of the money I make on it when I sell it on eBay

Sometimes we refuse to spend a lot of time because they just don’t have to be done:

  1. Trying out new things when we have a decent one to begin with
  2. Taking the time to install new software that we’re not sure is useful yet
  3. Taking the time to learn something new when doing it the old way takes x amount of time
  4. Doing something the old way after we’ve learned the new way
  5. Seriously considering a new idea when it potentially conflicts with our established thoughts

Tryability is a new term I made up to represent the pain of trying something new. In a similar way that “usability” is a measurement of how usable something is, “tryability” is a measurement of the effort involved of trying something new. It is made up of several factors:

  • learnability: how easy is it to use for the first time? (or learn new features)
  • usability: how easy is it to use over time (includes learnability)
  • effort: the time and energy involved in trying it out
  • attention: the attention it takes to find and learn about it (as opposed to learning to use it)

These things all overlap, of course. The reason why I’m using the new term “tryability” is that it involves an attention factor…things get much harder when there are other things to attend to. In other words, we have to make an effort to divert our attention to try something. We could probably house this under “usability”, but usability testing is often conducted in controlled situations…which don’t include fractured attention.

For web applications tryability is crucial because tools are making it so easy to post information online. How many ways are there to make a web page? A million?

Published: July 22nd, 2005

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