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Thread: [TEDx] A talk about why our devices aren't usable and how to fix it

  1. #1 [TEDx] A talk about why our devices aren't usable and how to fix it 
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    I want to start a discussion about a talk I gave at TEDx UCIrvine. It's about why the things we use are so complicated, and how to fix this problem.

    How do you feel about this? What are your own experiences? Which devices are too complicated? Which do you like? What do you think about my solution?

    Let me know what you think!



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  3. #2  
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    When the time changed to daylight saving time, it took me a long time to figure out how to reset my watch. Then after I had done that there was an alarm set that I couldn't figure out how to cancel for a couple more days. I almost decided to throw it away and buy a new one.


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  4. #3  
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    I don't have that problem. My watch is always set to UTC, so I just have adjust how many hours I subtract when the time change occurs.
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  5. #4  
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    I recently tested using Linux:Ubuntu and it is really complicated. You have to learn how to use it and you can't just intuitively find the solution while you use it (you need to read the help file). For example: I just don't understand why they can't include a taskbar (the one which you always use in MS Windows to find minimized items), strangely even MS Windows 7 removed that familiar taskbar (it became non-default, superseeded by a condensed form) and now Window 8 just became like a pure handphone interface... its really strange!

    IMO future user-interface is less about user empowerment but more about consumerism...
    Last edited by msafwan; March 15th, 2012 at 09:59 AM.
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    When the time changed to daylight saving time, it took me a long time to figure out how to reset my watch. Then after I had done that there was an alarm set that I couldn't figure out how to cancel for a couple more days. I almost decided to throw it away and buy a new one.
    Actually, I read somewhere that manufacturers get more and more products returned to them where customers claim that they are "broken", but in fact, there's nothing wrong with them. People just can't figure out how to work them.

    For some manufacturers this is actually a strategy: don't test the product, just release it, and then just see whether people like it. If not, most people will just buy a new one.

    How much longer are we going to take this?
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by MeteorWayne View Post
    I don't have that problem. My watch is always set to UTC, so I just have adjust how many hours I subtract when the time change occurs.
    I am actually a watch collector (got about a dozen of them). My favorite is a digital Swatch. They came up with this idea of BEATS, which divides the day into 1000 segments, and gets rid of time zones. It's a great idea, but people are so used to the conventional practices that it didn't stick.
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by msafwan View Post
    I recently tested using Linux:Ubuntu and it is really complicated. You have to learn how to use it and you can't just intuitively find the solution while you use it (you need to read the help file). For example: I just don't understand why they can't include a taskbar (the one which you always use in MS Windows to find minimized items), strangely even MS Windows 7 removed that familiar taskbar (it became non-default, superseeded by a condensed form) and now Window 8 just became like a pure handphone interface... its really strange!

    IMO future user-interface is less about user empowerment but more about consumerism...
    As I said in my previous reply: people like to stick with what they know. This is both good and bad. It helped us transition from Windows 95 to XP to Vista, because it basically looked the same and worked the same. It is also what causes most software to have 100s of different ways to do 1 thing: once you build something in, you cannot take it out anymore. If you do, people will get confused.

    The problem is that most of these interfaces were designed at a time when only geeks and techies used computers... they loved tinkering and didn't care about simplicity and ease of use. So even though now the majority favors simple interfaces, we're stuck with the legacy of old devices. Sometimes we need radical change.

    ...but that's not to say that the way radical change has been done lately is the correct way. I agree with your suspicion that most of the current changes in user interfaces are motivated by fashion and consumerism, not by technopsychometrics.
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    You need to show an example of devices that uses technopsychometrics for its user-interface, else how do we compare if it has better functioning than the complicated version? Also, does the device is complicated because of its limitation? (eg: old computer cannot display GUI because not enough memory) or does it became complicated because the developer took a shortcut? (eg: developer get used to old interface and found no need to change it). How does we make sure that developer even consider improving an interface, or do we need to FORCE the developer to make interface as a devices to simplify using a devices? (eg: mouse & touch screen for simplify user interface)

    If we have no example/comparison then we can't make a reasonable expectation of what an interface should/need to be, else we would be forcing developer to make an interface that take all the effort away from the actual devices. There should be a tradeoff... or, a reality which limits how simple an interface can be...
    Last edited by msafwan; March 16th, 2012 at 07:00 AM.
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by msafwan View Post
    You need to show an example of devices that uses technopsychometrics for its user-interface, else how do we compare if it has better functioning than the complicated version?
    Good point. There are unfortunately more "bad examples" than "good solutions". Here are two websites with some examples of notable improvements after applying technopsychometrics, mostly from software:

    Usability First - Usability ROI - Case Studies | Usability First
    Usability Case Studies - UPA

    A specific use-case with before-and-after screenshots:
    GSA Intranet Test Results | HowTo.gov

    I can also recommend the books "The design of everyday things" by Don Norman, and "Don't make me think" by Steve Krug.

    Quote Originally Posted by msafwan View Post
    Also, does the device is complicated because of its limitation? (eg: old computer cannot display GUI because not enough memory) or does it became complicated because the developer took a shortcut? (eg: developer get used to old interface and found no need to change it).
    There are indeed multiple limitations to any interface, both in terms of the device (screen size, memory) and the user (very wide range of ages, expertise, physical capabilities, etc.). This is part of the reality of technopsychometrics, and something user interface designers and usability professionals have to learn to deal with.
    That said, it seems that most companies nowadays try to make a device with the highest number of features for the lowest possible cost. This seems to be ingrained in our engineering education: for instance, electrical engineers learn to optimize circuitry in such a way that it minimizes the need for components. So when they build user interfaces, they do the same thing: they make one button do 5 things, because it's cheaper that way. They optimize on technology, not on usability.
    It is true that an extra button may increase the total cost of the device quite significantly. But I would gladly spend $30 more on a microwave that is easy to use!

    Quote Originally Posted by msafwan View Post
    How does we make sure that developer even consider improving an interface, or do we need to FORCE the developer to make interface as a devices to simplify using a devices? (eg: mouse & touch screen for simplify user interface)
    The most effective technique is to have a developer sit in on a user test: show them how people struggle with the device. If they dismiss it as an exception, show them the hard numbers from the tests: it's not just this user, many people this problem. This is usually a real eye-opener.
    Aside from that, it is good to realize that developers should do what they are good at: development. The user research and subsequent interface design should be done by usability professionals, and they should tell the developers what to develop.

    Quote Originally Posted by msafwan View Post
    If we have no example/comparison then we can't make a reasonable expectation of what an interface should/need to be, else we would be forcing developer to make an interface that take all the effort away from the actual devices. There should be a tradeoff... or, a reality which limits how simple an interface can be...
    This is an excellent observation. It means that usability tests should always be done in the context of the real device, and that there should be an ongoing conversation between the designers, testers and developers. Designers suggest improvements, developers can determine whether these improvements are feasible, and testers can then test them to see if they work. This is the only way to ground technopsychometrics in the constraints of reality.
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  11. #10  
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    Is the sound of the vid deliberately low because of the topic?
    Meteorologist/Naturalist & Retired Soldier
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Is the sound of the vid deliberately low because of the topic?
    I'm not sure... But yeah, I guess that the videographer has created a bit of a usability problem
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