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Specific example to understand it better.

I have a meeting application, it has the ff menus:

  • Meeting Schedule - contains pre-created meetings
  • My Documents - contains documents uploaded to the server

Now, user can start a meeting using this flow:

Tap Meeting Schedule -> Select a meeting in the list -> Tap Start Meeting

OR

Tap My Documents -> Select a document from the list -> Tap Start Meeting

Now the problem here is it's not clear immediately how to start a meeting, user needs to explore more to find out "oh I have to click this and that" in order to discover how to create a meeting.

Solution: Add a new menu: "New Meeting"

So we now have

  • "New Meeting"
  • "Meeting Schedule"
  • "My Documents"

Immediately, it's clear how to start a new meeting.

For the content of "New Meeting", user will be able to 1) specify meeting title 2) select a document (which is a popup to select from Meeting Schedule and My Documents) 3) Start Meeting button

The question is We now have multiple ways to start a meeting, will this confuse users? I believe adding "New Meeting" menu is a huge plus to UX, but will this confuse users because they can also start from a different flow?

[update] Is there a specific term for this problem?

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1 Answer 1

Being able to do things using different ways is a good thing. People discover parts of the application differently and follow different paths towards a goal, so if you provide them more ways to get to the same result, it makes life easier for your users.

One example of an application that does this well is Word 2010.

To align my text, I can either use icons on the toolbar, or go into paragraph settings: enter image description here

And my favorite IDE (Integrated Development Environment), Zend Studio (which is based on eclipse).

To view the properties of my project, I can select it from the menu:

enter image description here

Or right click the project in the projects pane: enter image description here

Or, if the project is selected in the projects pane: enter image description here

Having different ways to get to the end result is good, but also ensure that your "paths" are planned in a logical and well organized manner. Get into the mind of the user and think:

  • If I am on this screen/part of the app, how often do I want to start a meeting?

  • I am in the meeting schedule screen and I want to start a meeting. What's the most logical and quickest way there?

  • I am on the home screen and what to start a meeting, whats the quickest way there?

In summary:

  • Multiple ways to get to the same goal is a good thing, but make sure those paths are well thought out, organized and logical.

  • Do not go overboard and make it possible to get to anywhere from anywhere. This will be confusing and you will run into lots of problems designing your interface.

  • Collect/ask for feedback from your users to determine how you can make getting to where they want in the application faster and more logically. As users will be using your application a lot, they can often provide valuable insight that we ourselves overlook.

As for a term for this, I usually just call it flow or paths.

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