Usability and Swiss Pairings

15:17 Sat 11 Nov 2006
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Usability perfection, or even excellence, does not come easily. For example, a few years ago I created a sheet to guide Swiss pairings for 8 people over 3 rounds for the sfmagic group. I’ve tinkered with it a lot over time, and still find ways to improve it.

I made some of the changes quickly and easily, like the last one I made, removing “Player” from the test on the left. I spent considerably more time on others, such as the addition of an entire back page with instructions, and later with an example of the sheet after it had been filled out.
The first version:
Swiss 8-Player Pairings Version 1

The current version (two years later):
Swiss 8-Player Pairings Current Version

The evolution of this simple form has followed my experience of usability changes in general: you start out with something reasonable, and use shows you issues, which you correct. With luck, users will point out issues you hadn’t seen, and you correct those.

The point? I consider iterative development the way to go with just about anything that’s going to be used by people. Brainstorm, implement, test, tweak, release—repeat. While repeating, watch users, listen to users if possible, and attempt to use whatever the product is yourself. Heavily if possible. This kind of polish makes a huge difference, and without it interfaces tend towards awkwardness. (That might sound like a mild criticism, but I really abhor awkward interfaces.)

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