Hiding Things

The pattern for today is Hiding things. Original description says:

Can you hide functions or elements you’d prefer people didn’t use?

And example is:

These church hall heating controls have been hidden (leaving only the timer accessible) to reduce errors by users unfamiliar with them

In managerial world this pattern has two major applications. Positive and negative as you guess. Being the good guy by nature I’d like to start with the positive one.

Hiding things is the good approach for writing documents, policies and so on. 80% of long document is a kind of over-complication. The core message usually takes less than two or three paragraphs and is useful for the most readers. Ten more pages are about minor details and facts behind the proposal. Just split your writing into two parts. A short message to fulfill  the needs of most of your users and a number of pages to provide background and details for some of them. Save the time to your readers.

I’m always looking for the executive summary section. In most cases it works perfectly well. All other chapters can be just scanned that saves time.

Unfortunately, the most positive pattern that makes usability happen in the real world becomes the dirty trick in the communication. This pattern is the brilliant way to put something in writing that not welcomed by the recipient. Just let me show several examples.

The first one is about corporate policies. Have you ever read them? The bigger company is the more complicated they are. As the result it is perfect place to hide something. E.g. your company has a policy that allows ordering pizza or taxi on a specific occasion. However, to use them you should find the right regulatory document. Surprisingly, there is no pizza or taxi ordering policy. It is part of a 60-page-long office space regulatory policy. Those who are aware are using the service. Others are suffering from the pattern. Whether it was done on purpose or not is the question to you. Bad author does it accidentally. The good one does it on purpose!

Another usage of this pattern is emailing. There are cases when you need to put disclaimer, notification or fact into the message to cover your back. However, the counterpart wouldn’t ever confirm this information. So, it is your turn to do the dirty Hiding Things pattern. Write the long message with two or three messages in it. Put you tiny message (that is expected to be skipped by the reader) right after the tough and intriguing question near the end of the message and cross your fingers. In 50% cases if not used daily it works.

Disclaimer: whatever reason you have to hide something you should think from the reader’s perspective. The most awful thing is when writer of the document can’t understand the reader properly. Hiding Things is the most dangerous pattern in this case.

PS: If you don’t you like politics and avoid even thinking about dirty tricks you are not ready for anything more intriguing and interesting but a line management.

Inspired by: http://www.danlockton.com/dwi/Hiding_things

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