I went to the grocery store last night and snapped the picture on the right. At my grocery store the beer aisle is at the opposite end of the store from the fruits and vegetables. Also the proximity from the entrance of the grocery store and the cash register means that if you want a lime in your beer that you have to walk across the length of the store almost 2 times. It is enough to make you say “I will do without the lime”. But my grocery store believes in a pleasant user experience and put a bowl of limes right in the beer cooler. For completeness sake I will also mention that they put a bowl of lemons as well. 🙂

Putting items next to each other that are often used together is a great way to increase the usability of your software application, not just your grocery store. Here is a very simple example from the application that I seem to spend most of my time in, Outlook:

Screenshot of Outlook

This screen snip shows my task list grouped by date when the task list if shown on the e-mail screen. Right above the task list I have the option of adding a new task. Why? Because quite often when you are looking at your task list you remember 1 or 2 things that you forgot to add - I do it several times a day. If I had to jump over to the dedicated Tasks Screen or even to the menu bar to add my task I would be reminded of going back and forth across the grocery store looking for those limes. The simple and elegant ability to quickly add a new task why I am looking at my current tasks is much appreciated by myself.

Some notes of caution

Some people will have issues with breaking the paradigms in your user interface, they are the fans of CRUD (Create, Read, Update Delete). They like things organized the way that the code is organized internally. “We have a customer screen, they should go there to add, delete or modify the customer records”. Tell them to get over it and focus on pleasing your customers.

Some people like orange slices in their beer, so you might be tempted to put those in the beer aisle also. I have a friend who likes to put a couple drops of Tabasco Sauce in his beer as well. You can’t please everyone and if you try you will wind up with lots of crazy stuff in the beer aisle. Looks for the couple of things that are most common to put together.

A lot of people also like nacho chips with their beer. Nacho chips don’t keep as well in the beer cooler as limes do (they get soggy and they crush very easily). Sometimes it will not be possible to put items together and that is okay. You can look for other ways to improve the user experience, for example put the salsa in the chips aisle.