Tag Archives: Usability

Kids Can’t Use Computers… And This Is Why… Consumer Electronics Sucks

I was pointed to an article today called Kids Can’t Use Computers… And This Is Why It Should Worry You and it bugged me so much I had to respond at more length than was available in a FaceBook post.Datamation Cover June 15th 1985

The article covers a few topics, some of which I agree with, but the general theme is “you don’t understand  the inner workings of computers and I do, so you’re stupid”. There are (currently) 800 or more comments and growing so I assume it has gained some traction.

It’s written by a Computing teacher who is frustrated by people who come to him for help. I thought it was a teacher’s job to help people learn, but hey, maybe he’s just having a bad day. Unfortunately this guy seems to believe that the reason people don’t understand is, not because the consumer electronics industry generally sucks at User Experience, but because these lazy sods simply refuse to devote their lives to understanding the internal workings of their computers and phones.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been a geek in IT for thirty years or more.  I love technology and I love tinkering with the internals of computers, but I’m frankly embarrassed to be associated with the industry sometimes.

I can usually hack my way through a problem because I’m used to the nuances of software and hardware, but if some bewildered soul comes to me and says “The computer is saying Error Code: 0x32C8. What does that mean?”, I’m much more likely to look sheepish on behalf of the whole industry and say “Yeah, it’s not your fault. There’s no possible way you could know that. Let me do some arcane magic now and fix that and let’s pretend you never saw it”. I really feel for people when their computer makes them feel stupid and I need them to realise it’s not their fault.

So here are a few of the points that made me mutter “Bullshit!” under my breath as I flicked through the article this afternoon. Continue reading

Microsoft still don’t get it, do they…

I made a reluctant expedition into the Microsoft jungle this evening because my ISP suggested one of my PCs might be infected with a virus. They suggested checking with Microsoft Security Essentials.

This is the download page.



I can only guess they are offering me the choice of a 32 or 64 bit version but what the hell is the average punter supposed to make of that?

It’s 2013 for god’s sake. Haven’t they learned anything about user experience? Anything?

So, nothing to see here. Time to retreat to the sane world as quickly as possible.

Using Blogger as an OpenID Provider

Janine was trying to comment on a blog the other day and asked me “what’s this OpenID thing?”. It appears that some Blogger accounts require you to sign comments with credentials from one of several sites or OpenID.

Her confusion was an indication of how far OpenID has to go before it will be usable by everyone. It provides the basic plumbing for authentication but its usability issues are a major problem.

Even if I’d tried to explain to her what OpenID is, the fact that logging in would jump her to another site then back again would have completely freaked her out and destroyed any notion that this was “simplifying” the login process.

This is a typical example of what happens when you let the implementation details poke through to the user.

The underlying protocol works by jumping between sites but this is the antithesis of what the user actually wants to do. They are at site A and they want to log in. Taking them to Site B completely destroys their conceptual model of what they are trying to do and sparks one of those wild-eyed “what the hell is the computer doing now?” moments.

It looks like these shortcoming are starting to be recognised so OpenID still has a chance of being integrated smoothly into the user’s browsing experience, but it’s a shame it’s had such a bad start for want of some up-front brainstorming on what user’s actually want to do.

Anyway, I’ve been experimenting with OpenID on and off with WordPress plugins and found it kind of clunky to set up reliably. An article on WebMonkey suggested that you could use Blogger as an OpenID provider by pointing your domain there. I did and it does.

Now I’m set up with a working OpenID and I can play along as it (hopefully) evolves into the universal sign-on we are looking for.