My Mother Should Be Able To Do It April 16, 2007

I’m not a software developer. I’m not even what one would call a web developer (yet).
But I use softwares a lot. And I’ve been using them for 20 years now.
So far, you’ll tell me, nothing remarkable.
But for the past 10 years, as an IT manager, I’ve been helping and watching average people using computers.
And that is really interesting.
By average, I don’t mean retarded! Some pretty bright people even. I mean people who don’t see any interest in spending hours in front of a computer, trying to learn how to do something that should be obvious, on the computer itself.
First, as a rooky mistake, I used to think pfffu those users are really dumb, asking me all those questions.
Then, I figured : hey those pieces of software are really dumb, never working the way they should…

Now, if you’re working in the IT business, you’re either thinking one of two things:

  • Don’t know what you’re talking about?… Those softwares I develop are perfect!
  • Thanks for stating the obvious !

In the first case, no matter how fluent you are in C++, change your career decisions.
You’d be better off getting milk out of a cow.
In the second case, can you tell me then why nobody ever talks about it ?
You have to read advanced software and ux material to find theory on this subject.
Guys like Joel Spolsky (I love this piece), also him, and him and many others talk about software usability, and they all conclude pretty much the same thing: not good. But do you think my mother read their bog before buying her Mac (I don’t even talk about Windows).
Meanwhile, my mother still doesn’t understand why she can’t send me this picture she likes.
The brochure was saying “easy sharing of …”.
Worse, she thinks the problem is with her not understanding. So much for self insurance.
So she buys iPhoto for the dummies. Pointless…
Apple were clearly the ones who understood it a while ago, and they still do.
But that’s hardly enough.
There is a real need for a shift in the software industry. There are great softwares, today already, and they are getting more and more “usable”, even easy and obvious considering the complexity of their tasks- that is, if you’ve been using softwares for the past 10 years!
Of course, eventually, old people will die, leaving only the ones who understand how softwares work.
But that’s hardly enough.

p.s.: I like this theme. I think I will make it a recurrent one : My mother should be able to do it!