Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Usability of High Heel Shoes

“High Heel shoes” is a topic you might consider strange for a usability article but as I see it, it is not unlike a content management application, which has two sets of users – internal and external. In the creation of content the internal user is responsible for developing content. This content is then consumed the external user, or reader.

The usability of high heels is similar, and has both an internal and the external user. The internal user, the wearer in question, is concerned with projecting a desired impression or look. This look may vary in complexity ranging from achieving a fashion style, generating romantic interest, or simply appearing taller. There are many use cases for wearing high heel shoes; comfort is generally not one of them. Most of the subjects I have encountered will remove them at their first opportunity.

The look achieved is primarily the result of the extension of the feet to a position between 100 and 120 degrees. While angles greater than 120 degrees have been observed, this is outside of the scope of this article.

Extending the foot has the desired effect of artificially tightening the calf muscles of the wearer, allowing these muscles to take on a more rounded, solid appearance. Other muscles in the user’s posterior also take on added definition, adding to the overall effect. Since the wearer’s center of gravity is affected it gives the wearer the appearance of standing up straighter as well as adding to the wearer’s overall height.

As with many software packages customization of the user interface can add to the overall presentation and its effectiveness. A Pavlovian response can be obtained by adjustment to the height, decoration and presentation of the shoe. As my informal user tests have shown an open-toed presentation in a black or red color scheme adds to the overall user response.


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