Image credit: wikipedia
This blog doesn't usually cover general tech 'news'. And the story of Steve Jobs' poor health requiring him to take 6 months off has been all doom and gloom. But I see a silver lining…
Let me backtrack a bit. I recently spoke with Jared and Brian of User Interface Engineering and Robert of Miskeeto for their upcoming 'Userability' podcast. I asked "What are the things we take for granted that the 'average computer user' still has difficulty with?"
- People misunderstanding, misremembering, or panicking when dialogue boxes appear
- Not understanding what an email address is, what it isn't (for example it's not just a username)
- Understanding URLs and working with them
- Knowing what, and how to drag elements around the screen
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. And I think this is the problem all of us face — we have logged 10,000's of hours using this weird device called a computer, and naturally stop questioning the difficult and arbitrary things about computing. What we forget is how many people struggle with technology. It's only natural that we can't see the UI forest for the trees we live amongst.
For the first time in years, Steve might have the opportunity to notice those things which he, and the people he's worked with day-in-day-out, have lost awareness of. Away from the trees, he'll see the forest. On the Mac, I notice On/off switches on the back of computers being overlooked and 'buttonless' mice resulting in continual accidental right-clicks.
But in a broader sense, here is my list of average computer-user ongoing battles:
- Managing windows of many applications
- Moving files + contents between applications
- Saving and sharing files with others
- Working with text formatting, not knowing how to remove formatting from pasted text
- Arranging windows on the screen
- Emailing huge, or non-server-friendly named files
- Accidently erasing, or losing work
- Managing, and having secure passwords
- Managing downloads, still
- Modifier Keys (Shift, Command) and keyboard shortcuts
- Viruses and password security
- The clipboard
- System privileges
- Having a 'sense' of the reason for system slow-downs
What 'computer stuff' have you seen people struggle with? How do they cope? What in computing do you think needs a step back, a fresh approach?