The Halloween Principle

Imagine your users are normal smart people who are using your application during Halloween.

They are happily using your great product when all of the sudden, “ding Dong!”.  Oh, it must be a cute little bunch of trick or treaters.  Let’s stand up and walk over to the door.  Oh, what a cute little princess!  And must be a … hobo?  Oh well, here is some candy and some money for unicef.  Thanks for coming by!  Happy Halloween!

OK, now bring the person back down to your application.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is is clear where they were?
  2. Is it clear what they were doing?
  3. Is it clear what they should do next?

These are critical questions even if the user doesn’t stand up.  People are distracted all the time by other screens, instant messengers, emails, bathroom breaks, etc.  You have to make sure that the screen always communicates clearly to the user.  Assume they are going to get distracted.  Use this litmus test on your application and you will find plenty of places where you the user will lose track. 


Great images from Smashing Magazine on Halloween.

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