Pissed Off Usability Experts Vow To Make Things Easier

from the any-way-possible dept

We just got one of those “food saver” appliances, and it comes with a huge manual and a videotape that explains how to use it. That might be useful, if I had a VCR hooked up to a TV, but who watches videotapes any more? More to the point: why should a simple appliance require a video tape to understand how to use it? Apparently, a bunch of usability experts around the world are fed up with those types of questions, and are looking to force their will on all sorts of companies to try to get them to make devices, electronics, computers and websites all easier to use. At the start of the article, it sounded like proactive vigilante usability (which would be kind of cool) — but, it looks like they’re not going quite that far just yet. Instead, they’re just trying to highlight usability issues with a day (this Thursday) entitled World Usability Day — where they hope to highlight all sorts of issues that should be fixed.

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Comments on “Pissed Off Usability Experts Vow To Make Things Easier”

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Jesse McNelis (user link) says:

Will this be 'easy to use' or 'easy to learn'?

People get them confused all the time and a lot of the time they are complete opposites.
A pen is ‘easy to use’ but really difficult to learn. (ie. We spend >2 years learning how to write)
I’m sure a pen could be made ‘easy to learn’, but that would probably be at the expense of usuability(eg. the typewriter is easier than a pen to learn, but much more inflexible.)
I wish people paid more attention to the difference between the two.

Boo says:

Re: Will this be 'easy to use' or 'easy to learn'?

Jesse, I see where you are going – a tennis racket does not require a manual to use, but isn’t all that easy to master. Everyone know how to make a note play on a piano, and there’s no usability issues there – you just press the key… but that doesnt mean you can play a complex song.

But this is referring to ease of understanding of how to use. Pointing and clicking a mouse is not as difficult a skill to master as penning letters or playing music or playing tennis, so if you cant figure out how to book your flights online, that’s a fault of the website usability. If an intelligent dextrous two handed person can’t open a re-sealable packet of ham according to the instructions, that’s a usability problem. Not being able to find an archived article on a web site is a usability problem. Misleading road signs that make it difficult to drive to your destination – again usability. 10 different remotes in your living room, each with different layouts and different colour associations on the buttons – usability problem. Items designed with fancy controls to look good but end up confusing people – usability.

No-body’s claiming you should be able to pick up a violin and play Vivaldi if the violin is designed with usability in mind. And if they are claiming this, then they are idiots and most likely not associated with Jacob Neilson or whoever else is driving this campaign.

Doug Cadmus (user link) says:

Re: Will this be 'easy to use' or 'easy to learn'?

They’re not mutually exclusive. “Learnability” is an important aspect of “usability”, and one that is given a lot of consideration… especially as we pack more and more capability into ever smaller devices that may not readily manifest what they are capable of.
Easy is hard, indeed.

Pete Austin says:

Re: Make Greenpeace ships more steerable

The ironic story that dorpus is referring to (thanks dorpus).

World’s Coral Reefs Will be Devastated Within 30 Years – Greanpeace report (1999)

Greenpeace is to be fined after its flagship Rainbow Warrior II damaged a coral reef in the central Philippines during a climate change awareness campaign, marine park rangers said Tuesday … The ship and its crew were assessed a 640,000-peso (11,600-dollar) fine after the 55-meter (180-foot) motor-assisted schooner ran aground at the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park on Monday, park manager Angelique Songco told AFP … The ship’s bow sliced through a reef formation – Space Daily (2005)

giafly says:

EULAs are the biggest Useability Problem

Fed up with compact disc packets or telephone queues? Send us your nominations for the best and worse examples of usability, which we will compile for a vote on Thursday – BBC

I voted for Microsoft EULAs as the worst, but any EULA would do, because they require law-abiding people to spend a long time reading, or get legal advice, before they can start use the product.
In contrast, the comb is one of the best designs, because cave people got it right in prehistory and there’s been no need to change it much since.
PS: Do you believe in “Intelligent Design”? Then vote for “Mankind”.

Mark Rasmussen says:

Had same issue

We had the same issue with an exercise ball thing we got… who has a vcr anymore? But do you think anyone would convert it to dvd for us? Oh no – that is commercial, we can’t do that one. Finally shipped it to a friend in another state I knew was into video stuff and he did it for us, but what a pain! At least these companies should provide a way to get a dvd or download the video from their website!

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