Hello, again my dear readers!
It appears that this week I am very focused on the customer this week as this article I read particularly focuses on what the customer wants. The article is titled, “Figuring Out What They Expected“. When it references they, the article is referencing the customer. The person you are programming the program or application for. Anyway, let us get into the meat of this article.
The article starts out defining two things. The first is what the user model is. The user model is effectively, what the user is expecting and thinking when they use the program. It bundles everything they know about computers and all their preconceived notions about using them when they sit down and use your program. How do I use this program and what does it do for me, the user? This is the model you are aiming to nail. If no one uses a program, does the program really exist? The answer is yes but we aren’t here to talk about that. The next model is the program model. This is what the programmer programmed into the program on how it looks, works, and operates. The idea in establishing this is that the user model and program model want to be overlapping or ideally mirroring each other. Now there are two ways to do this. The first is to change the user model. Good luck with that one. People are stubborn, stuck in their ways, and how would you even accomplish that anyway? Write a manual on how to use your program? We all know no one reads manuals anymore (although to be honest people really should) and if your program is different from what the user is used to, the user is likely to just not use your program. There is almost always another way. This leaves the program model changing to match the user model. I mean, let us face it, it might suck but you can change your program to match what the user will expect. It may be a pain but if it means your program is used more and ultimately bought more, I think it is worth biting the bullet.
The next part of the article goes over how to actually find that user model. The article has a simple and elegant solution… ask them. Then after you implement them, grab a few people and ask them to test them. Not a large group of people now. Only about 5 or 6 is required; after that, any more tests are fairly repetitive and not that useful. In the end, if the user has to guess how the program works, the program model is not quite there yet.
This article has reinforced my view that in this industry, the end user or customer is the ultimate determinant for a program or application. After all, we are programming an application for someone to use. If they can’t use it, its no good to them. I will admit, I’m surprised that only 5 or 6 people for usability testing are the norm. I do have a new appreciation for the Apple way of thinking where the simplest way to do something, is the way to do it.
Until next week readers!