Reply to post: Don't blame the user

Are you sure your disc drive has stopped rotating, or are you just ignoring the messages?


Don't blame the user

Except that this isn't a case of "stupid users". Most times something like this happens, it's design failure. You, being tech-savvy, assumed that your users would understand, and behave in a certain way; they, not being tech-savvy, didn't. Your failure, not theirs. You should have either built things differently, or ensured that everyone had adequate training.

Two stories I was told from inside IBM.

Firstly, the lab doing usability testing on a new system, with a user who'd never used a computer before (in a room on his own, being observed and filmed). He struggled through the first few instructions to get the computer turned on OK. Then he came to "Take the floppy disk out of its sleeve". Now - for whatever reason, he'd already done that some time before, but didn't remember or understand that he had. So he takes a good look at the floppy, and decides that the "sleeve" is the protective cardboard layer either side of the recording medium. He then spends 20 minutes trying to work out how to get the floppy out. After much effort and swearing, and with some considerable ingenuity, he removes the magnetic disk. He goes back to his instructions, turns the page, and finds... "Hold the floppy disk by the corner..."

The other was a guy who simply sat there, staring at the screen, despite people occasionally gently prompting him "When the instructions come up on the screen, do what they say". Instructions duly appear... he sits there. Verbal prompt. He nods and agrees, but still just sits there. Prompt, nod, nothing. Again. After a while, everyone gives up, and the testers go in to find out why he didn't follow the instructions in front of him. "WHAT instructions?!?" "Those!" "I don't see anything..." Coloured text on a coloured screen; colour-blind user. Epic fail, as they used to say.

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