Humans rely on habit and muscle memory to accomplish every day tasks.
Ergonomists know every detail about how we interact with our tools. Frederick Winslow Taylor who earned a degree in mechanical engineering by correspondence at Stevens Institute of Technology, pioneered the “Scientific Management” method to find the optimum method for carrying out pretty much any job. During WWII, a young lieutenant named Alphonse Chapanis eliminated most “pilot error” by de-confusing airplane controls.
In about 1973, a fellow on my pit crew installed the shift linkage backwards on the race car. I went out and shifted from third gear to first when I thought I was grabbing fourth. Surprised pretty much everyone including the engine builder when that about stood the car on its nose.
“A good driver should be able to adjust,” he said.
No. A good driver should be able to concentrate on pointing the car, not on where the next gear might be this week.
Big consumer companies employ most of the (working) ergonomists in the universe. Heck, I’d bet a doughnut that two or three of them work for Microsoft. Why are these consumer companies so blind to the way we accomplish everyday tasks? Why do they want us to keep adjusting to different shift linkages?
Liz Arden mentioned this morning that Google has changed its Latitudinal Check In so she can’t just poke a button on her desktop any more.
Not a biggie in the grand scheme of things but it fits the age old question, why did they have to fix something that weren’t broke?
Google had trained us to use their service one way and now they want us to do it some other way for no reason other than that they can.
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes wrote three years ago that Windows 7’s changes “suggest … that Microsoft is putting design ahead of usability.” Ya think? Apple afficionados say the same thing about the company Mr. Jobs built on the perfect User Interface. I Googled “Lion annoyances” and came up with about 297,000 results which is far fewer than the 1,540,000 results I found for “Windows 7 annoyances.” An entire industry has had to spring up to publish quick cures and workarounds for the two most “popular” computer operating systems.
Lion changed the three finger salute of Snow Leopard to two fingers, and reserved the three finger gesture for Mission Control. In Windows 7, you can’t tell which programs are actually running on the Taskbar and which are just links since some, like Internet Exploder, add an identical button for every open window and some, like WordPerfect and Dreamweaver, simply change the look of the one button so you know what to push. Microsoft also moved all the files around in Windows 7 so “My Documents” is now just another broken link and your IT department can’t find anything without retraining.
Microsoft and Apple had trained us to use our computers one way and now they want us to do it some other way for no reason other than that they can.
And who ever heard of pushing “START” to turn off the engine.
Oh. That’s how keyless cars work now, too.
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
NPR jumped on that bandwagon last week when Science Friday changed its website. “Redesigned with you in mind” is its new banner.
You maybe, but not me. It is now totally buggered.
I don’t subscribe to many podcasts because I don’t necessarily listen to every show and have enough clutter on both my hard drive and my broadband connection to want it filled with stuff I don’t use. SciFri trained me to go to their site to download the segments I want to hear each week. It was fast. It was accurate. It was scientific.
SciFri had trained us to listen one way and now they want us to do it some other way for no reason other than that they can.
Like host Ira Flatow’s approach to Global Warming, the site is no longer fast, nor accurate, nor scientific. In fact, of the two segments I grabbed last week, one had pieces of three with one piece repeated and the other was screwy. [ed. note: see the update from NPR in the Comments section below.]
I can fix this by teaching the companies just one word but I dont work cheap.