Sunday, July 18, 2004
New Scientist: Polite computers win users' hearts and minds
The trick, according to a researcher who has analysed users' responses
to their computers, is to make operating systems and software more
"civilised" by saying sorry more often. That way people won't feel they
are stupid or at fault, so they become less apprehensive about using
computers, and perhaps more productive and creative. [Tomalak's Realm
The researchers conclude that users were happier with the more polite
application, but there's no indication of whether they made better
choices or were more accurate or productive with the emotionally
satisfying system, which is more the point that Don Norman addresses in
Emotional Design. Still, it's
interesting research. There's really no reason error messages have to
be belittling of users. My developers have been trained to have me read
and tweak their error messages; they don't always come out more
friendly, but at least there's some consistency and readability to the
There's a thread today on Slashdot in response to an article on NewsForge asserting that "Open source usability is a technical problem we can solve on our own."
The claim that caught my interest is this:
But If I want to learn how to write phrases
understandable by users or what colors to use that still allow
color-blind people to use my software or how to best name categories
for efficient navigation, I can do nothing but listen to people's
opinions in the matter. Where is the open source community's pool of
facts and knowledge covering usability issues?
This is, of course, nonsense. Yes, everyone has an opinion
usable, just as all programmers have an opinion on what makes effective
code style, for example. But there are rules about how to write
understandable phrases, just like there are readily-accessible
guidelines about what colors to use or not to use. Sounds to me like
the problem for open source developers is they just don't know who to
talk to and where to go to find the wealth of usability and HCI
and IA information that's available. Sheesh, they can attend the
same classes and meetings and conferences that the rest of us do!
© Copyright 2002-2005 Fred Sampson.
Last update: 5/21/05; 10:22:14 PM.
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