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Archive for May, 2009

9
May

Good Usability Sometimes is Bad!

   Posted by: wkossen    in Uncategorized

Now before y’all sceptics out there start getting into the disagreement mode, let’s see what actually is the reason for this rather controversial heading…

Good Usability means a application, apparatus, thing or whatyamightcallit (my spellingchecker had some problems with that one…) is sufficiently easy to use by those needing to use it and for the purpose they’re using it for. In general it’s a good thing for things to be usable. If we’re talking computer programs and websites this applies, too. But…

Could it actually be a problem if something complicated is easy to use? I think it is. Let’s look at operating systems for a minute. These do very complicated things, and – even worse – a lot can go wrong. If handling an operating system is easy, you might have serious problems when things go wrong. In general I would say that you should keep your hands of everything you don’t know enough about (define enough???). If you want to administer an operating system, you should be knowledgeable and experienced and know lots about the complexity you’re dealing with. If this complexity is hidden by a soothing layer of usability, things can go wrong very quickly and very badly. With all due respect to the guys at Microsoft, this is actually one of the reasons MS Windows is getting so much negative talk.

The question that remains is the whereabouts of the thin line between making difficult or dull tasks efficient or simple, and on the other hand making it too easy for unqualified people to mess things up… How unusable should a complicated thing be? How much RTFM are we allowed to demand from those dealing with complexities? In fact, isn’t a system that’s complicated and difficult to use more usable than a similarly complicated system that’s easy to mess up?

Of course, you could mess up the non-usable system, but that’s besides the point. If usability promotes error-free working, that isn’t so bad, but just think about this; Don’t strict and awkward security measures give you similar results?

I am interested to hear your opinions on this from you. Please don’t hesitate to comment or link.

Thanks for reading.