Read the Printed Word!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

user friendly

What is user-friendly ?
I think it is one of the much used and misused words these days.
Who is the user who decides whether ‘something is user friendly’ or not.
I remember the days in the academy, when every tactical exercise involved a briefing in hindi or hindusthani to be precise . Whenever you left out some details, the instructors were always quick to point out, “Don’t assume anything, don’t leave out the details, remember, Sepoy Bhoop Singh has to understand”. So, Sepoy Bhoop Singh was the bench mark and you addressed your briefing to him so that he finds the orders “user-friendly”.
Later while serving as staff officer to senior officers , you heard, “I don’t have time, just put it in one page or better still a 5 minute presentation” here it was not Sepoy Bhoop Singh , but General Sher Singh who demanded a user-friendly brief.
(Do the generals really lack time, and if so, how is it they are able to devote hours at the golf course and at parties ? My own suspicion is that after their own brief making days, they have now totally lost the ability to read and comprehend anything beyond one page or any presentation without the user-friendly images.)
Why is it that I find the traffic in any city not at all user-friendly ? Every vehicle on the road seem to be hell bent on running into my car, and every sign post is placed in such a way that I see it only after taking a wrong turn. Oh, No my driving is not all that bad, it is just that the environment is not user-friendly, expecting me to keep my eyes and ears open and expecting me to concentrate. In a user-friendly environment I would just have to think of reaching a particular place and I should be there, after all it is the latest model car.
When you develop a software which requires the user to answer difficult questions like in which format one wished to save the file , or for that matter when you expect the user to enter the current time or date in a particular format, you come under fire for making a not so user-friendly stuff. Secretly, software developers call the so called user-friendly software as idiot friendly.
Just assume that you are making software for idiots and you will never go wrong; may be for the proverbial Sepoy Bhoop Singh.
Can you call a banana not so user-friendly fruit because it just would not peel itself and somehow find its way into your mouth that you have thought fully kept open?
Somehow when it comes to computers we end up doing exactly that.