How Many Ways Can You Exit an App?

Posted Thursday, January 28th, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Different people use applications in different ways. Sounds simple and obvious, but how often do you look at the real implications of it? Just to take a simple example, let’s suppose you’re using Windows (pretty much any recent version), and you want to perform a simple task: Exit the active application. How many different ways might a user do that?

  1. Alt, F, X (that is, “tap the Alt key and release it, then hit F, then X”)
  2. Alt+F, X (i.e., “hold Alt while pressing F, then release both and press X”)
  3. Alt+F4
  4. Alt+F, up-arrow, Enter
  5. mouse-click on “File”, move down and mouse-click on “Exit”
  6. mouse-click the top-right corner “x” button
  7. in some apps: Ctrl+Q (this is particularly likely if the user has just migrated over from the Mac world, or often has to switch back and forth)

Seven different ways of doing this simple action. I could come up with similar lists for “save the active document”, “copy and paste some text”, and other common actions. Note that Save, Cut, Copy, and Paste are often found on toolbars, unlike Exit, so that makes another way-of-doing-it that’s not on the previous list.

If you want your application to be perceived as “intuitive” or “user-friendly” by all of your users, rather than just a narrow range, make sure that the first thing the user tries works just like they expected.

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