Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Making things more difficult than they need to be

One of my IT guys told me an interesting story at lunch today.

He got an email from a person in our organization, it went something like this:

Person: "I have a problem. I have email that needs to go to another group of people after I have reviewed it. However, when I get the email it has the wrong people I want to send it to, so I need it to remove some groups or individuals and leave other groups. Please fix this for me."

IT: "What would you like me to do?"

Person: "I need a script or something that will change these email addresses from one group or individuals to another anytime these kinds of emails come up. Do you have time to do that for me?"

IT: "Is there a different way you can do it?"

Person: "If you don't have time, I understand but if you can just give me some guidance I will write the script myself."

IT: "Before we go down that road, could you give me more detail of what you want?"

Person: "Well, I receive these emails. Then I need to sometimes send these email to others groups. So, I select "Reply to All". Then I type in the new group of who I want to give it to. But, it also gives me the email addresses of everybody that saw the email beforehand."

IT: "Have you tried selecting "Forward" instead of "Reply to All"? Then you only have to specify the groups you need it to go to?"

This is a TRUE story, I'm really not making this stuff up. However, it shows how quickly we think we need to create another solution when the obvious solution is right in front of us. In this case, the person know how to forward email but had made up his mind that he was doing it the right way but the email reader wasn't working the way he expected. To fix the problem (it surely couldn't have been him, it had to be something else!), unnecessary time could have been spent creating a script.

I wonder if this happens the same way with products. We quickly expect that the products don't work and try to make them do something different as a result. We don't realize that perhaps we just don't understand how the product was designed. Once we do understand that, we may realize that the product is actually working as it should!

Anyways, I couldn't resist passing along this story!

1 comment:

Rich Stone said...

Software usability as an issue is defined as any misalignment between the users expectation for how the software should work, and how it actually works. You may think this is a strange definition for usability, but in reality, if a large percentage of your user base expects software to work a certain way, you are better off building it that way, than you are trying to change the mind of most of your users.

Check out my post on this topic