I couldn’t help but to keep thinking about my post “What is Usability?” long after I pressed the “Publish” button. As much as I like Krug’s definition of usability, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that it is missing something:
…usability really just means making sure that something works well: that a person of average (or even below average) ability and experience can use the thing–whether it’s a Web site, a fighter jet, or a revolving door– for its intended purpose without getting hopelessly frustrated.
I just couldn’t quite put my finger on what that something really was. I tried to let it go and tackle to seemingly impossible pile of work I have to do, but I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I started to stress out, and that’s when it hit me…
Preusability Issue: Overwhelming Your Users
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then, when I started reflecting on my recent experiences with unusable software, it hit me: most of the time, I gave up before I started. I didn’t feel frustrated, I simply felt overwhelmed. This is a very important difference.
I am an amateur musician, and have at various times in the last decade attempted to make music on my computer. I have primarily used Reason, and Cubase, but I have never gotten very far. Why? Because when I start to use the software, I get in there, click a few buttons, and feel overwhelmed with the perceived complexity of it. I then promptly shut it down. I don’t give software a chance to frustrate me, because I’m gone before I’ve really started.
The problem of feeling overwhelmed is not limited to advanced music making software. I am currently using a BlackBerry. I love it… for the most part. It’s my first smart phone experience, and we’re currently in our newlywed phase. I look into the shiny surface, smiling, and I see me smiling back. We do everything together. She makes me feel secure when I’m in an awkward social setting. I feel better when walking down the street, holding her (in my) hand. I love to turn her on in the morning, but have recently just kept her turned on all night…. Ack, I digress.
My new love aside, sometimes I want to change the options on my BlackBerry. And on those occasions, I have ventured into the depths of the Options menu only to find myself completely overwhelmed by the staggering lists upon lists of options. Not knowing where to start, I just back out. Granted, in reality, if I took 20 minutes to learn the options, I would probably have no problem finding what I was looking for in the future. The real issue here is that the presentation made me feel as though overcoming the complexity would require too much effort and I left before even trying to accomplish my original goal.