Friday, October 06, 2006



My husband called me at work today. He had a small problem. He was attempting to print a document from a website, but the printer function wasn't working - no matter what he tried. I pulled up the website at work and took a look. He was attempting to print Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail from The King Center website. Turns out that the print function is disabled on the site. If I had to make an educated guess, I'd say this is for copyright reasons. However, until my husband called me, he blamed himself for the print function not working.

I, too, had a problem with technology today. I couldn't figure out how to get the screen from a laptop to display through a PowerPoint projector. Did I blame the troubleshooting guide for not walking me through every single step? No. I blamed myself. Why do we do this? Why don't we immediately assume that there is something wrong with the design of whatever it is we are working with? But, no, self-recrimination is the order of the day - that and a few choice swear words.

Seth Godin recognizes that some technology is poorly designed in two recent posts: Where are the tweakers? and More on Tweaking. His posts aren't about huge design flaws, but little ones that may be pretty easy to fix. Once fixed, or tweaked, they will bring much greater satisfaction to the user.

Kathy Sierra, on her blog Creating Passionate Users, also touches on ideas that would keep tech users from feeling disabled, specifically in her post Featuritis vs. the Happy User Peak and Why they don't upgrade (and what to do about it). In the latter post, she says,

People don't upgrade because they don't want to move back into the "Suck Zone."

They worked too damn hard to reach a level of competence and the thought of sinking back down--however briefly--into that awful state they clawed their way out of--is too unpleasant. We've trained users to fear upgrades. Raise your hand if you've ever installed an upgrade only to find yourself back in that confused I-have-no-frickin'-clue-where-they-put-that-dialog-box state? Raise your hand if you felt the upgrade just wasn't worth it, even though you knew that the way you did things in the current version was pretty much an inefficient hack. Raise your hand if you felt intimidated and maybe even a bit humiliated that after upgrading you could no longer do some of the simplest things.

Bingo! We've got a winner! I HATE feeling disabled by technology. I HATE blaming myself for technology's failings. My husband calls computer technology "the tool of the Devil." That's because, when it's not working, we become possessed. Exorcism, anyone?

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