Gulf of execution and evaluation

The concepts of “Gulf of Execution” and “Gulf of Evaluation” were introduced by cognitive scientist Donald Norman to explain the challenges users face when interacting with complex systems, such as technology interfaces. Let’s break down each concept:

  1. Gulf of Execution (User friendliness): This refers to the gap between a user’s goals or intentions and the means available to achieve those goals within a system. In other words, it’s the difficulty users encounter in figuring out how to operate a system to accomplish their desired tasks.Example: Imagine a complex software application with numerous features and functions. If the interface is poorly designed or lacks intuitive navigation, users may struggle to find the right buttons or menus to perform specific tasks. This gap between what users want to do and how they can do it represents the Gulf of Execution.
  2. Gulf of Evaluation (Ambigous feedback) : This refers to the gap between the system’s state and the user’s understanding of that state. It’s the difficulty users face in interpreting the feedback provided by the system and assessing whether their goals have been achieved. Example: Continuing with the software application example, suppose a user performs an action but receives ambiguous or inadequate feedback from the system. They may not be sure whether the action was successful or if it had the desired effect. This uncertainty creates a gap between the user’s expectation of the system’s response and the actual feedback received, representing the Gulf of Evaluation.

To minimize the Gulfs of Execution and Evaluation and improve user experience, designers aim to create interfaces that are intuitive, user-friendly, and provide clear feedback. This often involves user research, iterative design processes, usability testing, and incorporating principles of human-computer interaction (HCI) to bridge the gap between users’ mental models and system functionalities. By reducing these gulfs, designers can enhance usability, efficiency, and user satisfaction with the system.