Monday, April 28, 2008

Users will do what it takes to make it work

Are your users trying to be too nice? Are they not telling you the truth? One of the things they also might be doing is to do what it takes to make your software application work - even if it means making them cry.

From the user testing I've seen so far, time and time again I keep seeing the same thing. There are times when the user will do all this other stuff in order to make the application work. All this other stuff meaning having to create additional reports, compiling data into more usable forms, etc...

This is where usability actually fills in the gap. Contextual inquiry is the best method to get at these pain points and to create better efficiencies. It's usually the case wherever there's a case of organizational inefficiency does the user create secondary tasks to compensate for the application's lack functionality.

So build it in! I was once told by a colleague that the user should keep their calculator at hand when going through a financial transaction. That's not the point! To make the user adapt and adjust to our applications by these secondary methods only means that the design isn't good enough. And besides, isn't computing power a lot quicker than that of a calculator?

So when the next time you have a session and you see that the user is really trying, and may be going beyond their immediately means to complete the task, that may tell you something. It might mean back to the drawing board.

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