Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Users think it's easy

More from my travels this week... user's think "it's" easy... software that is.

Oh boy, I wish it were. You see something in a demo, on a competitor site, a sales pitch, zing, and let’s get that on our site. We "bought" (doesn't have to mean literally) into a solution, that solution said we'd be able to easily add new features, customize and also get ongoing maintenance. Of course someone said it would be easy, would you "buy in" if wasn't? Or would your decision makers? The costs of changes are low? Sold!

Let me tell you a little secret... software isn't easy. You can't just switch over to using a mobile CSS to be mobile. You can't allow your content editors to create complex content in content management tools. At some point, it gets technical and you need real people doing real work to make something happen. At that moment of need, you likely aren't fitting into the box you bought into, so the changes to the box coming later aren't going to work on your circle you are about to build. So don't get upset, you've accepted some creativity or divergence for differentiation rather keeping it plain. Applaud yourself and accept the risk. You might get lucky and raise the bar and the result if you are noteworthy within your peers and they are adopting your work rather than you adopting theirs.

It's also easy (easy for the users) when users stop asking questions on how to properly do something. It’s easy to them because they don’t need help. Once the non-technical folk are taking on their own initiatives to try and round the corners of that box they bought and it’s quiet while they are doing it (not asking questions for guidance), the circle they are trying to bend from the square is going to be a triangle. Their triangle result will likely work (solving some problem), but to the builder's surprise once they get wind of what's happening is the reminder that users will always use your software in ways you never planned.

It’s a fine, and difficult, act of balance when a creator chooses to enable a user to be advanced. Do you want to accept that you as a creator haven’t properly anticipated another’s usage patterns? Most might mind, but the truth is you have to accept this. There should be usage pattern restrictions to detect anomaly behaviors. They can be blocked, alerted on, or reported on. I know click paths are pretty close on analytics, but path blocking might be a nice step, or at least the chime in for “do you need help?”

See my related travel post from my airport/plane observations as well:

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