Friday, October 14, 2011

Are things getting more usable? Or just not for developers?

I was reflecting from the past week and recalled a number of UX/usability issues with products that I thought should be easy.  Maybe things are being made so easy that it is it making it too hard for someone like me to use?  I was using Microsoft's Outlook 2007 email client and all I wanted to do was to view the HTML source of the email.  Previously this was pretty straight forward and obvious to do (well from my recollection).  As I didn't need to search the interwebs for an answer.  The obvious choice of something being under the view menu was no longer applicable and eventually found it in a sub menu under Other actions (  So why wouldn't this functionality be under the view menu?  I don't know the reasons why Microsoft put this functionality in this obscure location but it gets me thinking it is hiding functionality from the user.  Probably the real answer is that a developer(me) is no longer an audience which gets functionality aimed it.  Instead it is "hidden" or obfuscated from me, where  it is there but no longer obvious.  This is the same for Windows Vista/7 which I do my best to skin it back to Windows 2000 where I could quickly find functionality and be productive.  Windows Explorer used be a great place to manage files but now with My Computer taken over I find it to be productive manage files.

I understand I am not the target audience.  Scratch that I bought the product so should it not be aimed at me?  This is where I feel UX in software is failing because they can not be customized for me.  I was using my accounting software Xero today and all I wanted to do is search over my expenses.  Fairly simply functionality to do a search over a table right?  Maybe it's just that I want something that they have yet to implement?  Put it on the suggestion list you say?  The real issue is that my needs will never match everyone else.

This brings me to the thought that UX/usability should be focused less on a generic customer(s) and more directed to each customer.  You might be thinking "Hey Ross, to that you'd needs mega bucks.".  Well I would agree with you but I think this is the direction where software needs to move to.  We have seen a lot of movement recently with enterprise software being pressured to deliver consumer software type features.  In the enterprise world you would create one page/module which only a small number of users and it would exactly what they needed to be productive.  Where as consumer software you do not have ability for that level of customization to occur.  So instead consumers create new work-flows to get around those needs.  If they are lucky there is a product that better suit's there needs and they migrate to it.  This is what consumer software needs to learn from the enterprise.  Software needs to be to be customized to me.

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