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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Workarounds

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After simple introductions, we began our usability test:

I asked, "So how do you log into your university e-mail?" What followed next would astound me in immeasurable ways for years to come.

She grabbed the mouse pointer and began actively jamming away at the keyboard. Her typing speed wasn't very impressive (she was utilizing the standard two-finger poke method), but she eventually made it the university home page.

Of course I thought to myself, "Wait, did she misunderstand my question?" I continued to survey this curious spectacle.

Click. Office of Student Affairs. Click. Contact. Click. Financial Aid Help. Click. How to log into my e-mail. Click. Student E-mail. Click. I was floored. Each click seemed to affirm my reason for being there, and so I had to ask, "Why did you decide to go to the university homepage to find your e-mail instead of going to the site directly?"

She happily answered, "Well, someone put the links there so I feel like I should use all of them."

Her answer reminded me of the baby boomer generation (and thus, my parents and many of my relatives) that came before me; they always seemed to discover the solution via trial and error, but to ask them how they got there was just begging for a mental facepalm.

But after some time, you'll realize that there's always a reason why people do things. To empathize, discover, and understand is key to learning a little bit about our humanity, even if it's just one interface at a time.

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