UXD Reflective Journal-Week 3

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This post is required under User eXperience Design, Principles and Concepts; KSU course IAKM 60120. It’s intent is to write a short post about what stuck me most in the previous week.

I am going to break the rules this week as there are two things that struck me during this week’s studies, both being comments from The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman, a book which is considered a seminal text in the field of user design and one I am enjoying immensely. (As such, I highly recommend it!)

The first is: People invariably object and complain whenever a new approach is introduced into an existing array of products and systems. Consider music notation…

upa totally archaic and overly complex way of denoting the creation of sound via an instrument. For a time I took classical guitar lessons and as my teacher pointed out, the irony is that even while this nonsensical gibberish was being created, there were better systems being concurrently developed. One was “tablature,” which reasoned that diagrammatically indicating where the fingers should be placed on the instrument neck made more sense than relying on the reader instantly decoding the meaning of a complex symbol ad translating it into the correct note. This example is from the mid 1500’s:

up2

Another example of this: the qwerty keyboard we all use. Developed by early typewriter manufacturers, its main intent was to slow typists down! On early typewriters the levers that struck the inked ribbon into the paper could easily jam if one typed too quickly. The solution, rather than design a better typewriter, was to make typing difficult, complex and slow. Today, better, more ergonomic and easier to learn keyboards exist, the best being the Dvorak keyboard.

But the point remains: if better alternatives exist, then why are we still stuck with these two systems hundreds of years later? Because those given the job of teaching the process are the exact same people who are already heavily invested in its continuance. These teachers have paid their “dues” and have no incentive for making the learning process easier for the next generation. The lesson: doing it right the first time is easier than unseating even a bad design.

The second quotation that struck me was: Blame and punish; blame and train, the typical response to human error. I am amazed at how deeply, when it comes to IT, the fear of “blame” is sunk into the DNA of the organization I work for, and this despite the fact that I—and I have worked there for 15 years—have never used this tactic. IT at my organization has only ever said to the user, “Please tell us exactly what happened. It wasn’t your fault, it was the system…let’s fix it together to prevent future repetitions.” And yet users refuse to accept responsibility, refuse to tell the exact details of what they did and deny doing things that analysis later shows they did do. There was a popular TV show in years past where the cultural meme was, “Everyone lies.” Perhaps they do, but why?!? I can only imagine that at one time, long ago, when the IT systems were first being developed, that the attitude of, “What have you done now?!” was prevalent. But what is so painful, is how deeply such a sentiment buries itself into an organization and how hard it is to root it out once established.

A lesson to be learned, indeed.

Thank you for dropping by the Book of Bokeh. I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did writing it.

-j

The photo is of some solar cells from the rooftop of our newest plant. Photograph and comments ©John Etheridge with all rights reserved; not to be used without the expressed written permission of the copyright owner.

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