Pre-Ramble: “User Error” is currently at the top of my list of most hated words in the English language. In this era of ubiquitous technology, every man, woman and child has seen themselves in deep technological waters at one point or another.
Seriously — remember the first time you tried to ease the needle down on that glossy, twirling Bobby Sherman album? Or, the first time you tried to slide a cassette into that slot in the dashboard? … Fast-forward to the thumb-tied act of sending your first text-message. There is definitely a learning curve on adapting to new technologies … only now, there are just so many more ways that you can screw up.
Opportunities to commit technical errors are all around us. “User-interface” is what happens when you or I try to make our tech gadgets work. Legions of technology designers and developers are currently making careers out of building technological hardware and software that is “user-friendly.” User-friendly is code for anticipating the random stupidness of the average technology consumer.
People who design and develop technology products are thinking about functional requirements … stuff like:
- navigation (how will the user move through a webpage or action?)
- content (do the words/concepts make sense?)
- visual clarity (can the user tell how this works just by looking at it?)
- how many clicks it takes to do something
- transaction time (how many seconds does it take to download/accomplish something)
- processing limitations (how much band-width is required to support the expression of the information or activity?)
- the integirty of the data (is the user going to mistakenly enter a letter into the spaces where their phone number should be?)
Well, so – anyone who has read this blog for any period of time knows that I am something of a newbie when it comes to technology (just ask my website guy … ). At some point, I will share with you the depths of my tech-unsavviness, however, trust me when I tell you that when your computer prompts you to “update this” or “synch-up that” it’s a good idea to JUST DO THAT, rather than deleting it, relegating it to the “I’ll do that later” pile, or thinking that someone else will take care of it … (that “someone” is you).
Incoming … Code Red! Why set yourself up for the humiliation of standing at the Genius Bar with an unresponsive phone only to have Tim the Tech Associate (shown above right) politely, but patronizingly ask if you’ve been updating your software and synching up with iTunes? (Lest you think that Tim’s left hand is casually resting on the counter, note that he is actually reaching for the security button as he sees me approach the tech support area.)
The Take-Away: I’m thinking that an informed, proactive, can-do approach to technology is a stance well worth taking and one that can be applied to other areas of our lives as well. We all know about brushing and flossing, diet and exercise, sunblock, bike helmets, a good night’s sleep and strategic hand-washing … I understand that multi-tasking is now on the skill-set-non-grata list, however, it wouldn’t hurt to floss a little while we’re waiting for the iPhone to synch up.