The myth of intuitive software

Published: March 3rd, 2009

http://www.zdnetasia.com/techguide/webde…

A great piece about software that is hard to use, and should be. The author laments the death of training users on new systems/software, with organizations wanting software to be usable immediately for some one who is working in the domain.

This ‘death of training’ is news to me, but not surprising. In tough times, most employee training is the first thing trimmed from budgets, but usually that training is for employee improvement and such, not for the systems that get used in doing business. However, I can see projects in tough times trying to cut cost and time; testing has usually been the main victim, but training is the next obvious target.

Now, I remember when the Common User Access (CUA) standard was going to lead to software interfaces that were similar across systems, so at least the interface would become intuitive from just plain constant exposure; remember, CUA gave us the OO approach with File and Edit drop-down menus, but then came the Web and the Browser, where the shell was CUA but the browser page content was all over the place.

Now I have Word 2007 and the menus are gone, to be replaced with tabs that are NOT intuitive and take too much space on my screen. They are not intuitive because no other app I use has the same structure, so I will not get used to them, even if I do use Word a lot. We can hope that Microsoft changes back to menus in the next version of Word/Office; if not, organizations better train people on it when it gets implemented, or look for a lot of lost productivity while people try to figure how to use it.

But, if organizations do recognize this, perhaps that understanding will leak over to its domain-specific systems. Not being able to handle styles in Word is annoying, but not being able to book a sale is disastrous.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada


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