Design for stupid people?

Angelo makes an interesting link between usability and stupidity in his latest post at ForeverGeek.

It makes me wonder why organizations put a great deal of effort to produce a manual rather than make the design simple and usable so that there’s no need for the manual in the first place. Not all documents are useless though. Sometimes, we need a reference manual of error codes.

From experience, writing manuals gives you a great opportunity to “feel” whether the product (or software) is usable or not. If it feels tiring just to describe a single operation, then there must be something wrong with the product. Of course, I am assuming here that you deeply care about the usability of your product. Otherwise, you may as well just copy-and-paste from draft specifications.

The problem is, most of the time, a manual is the last item on a checklist of things to do before the product is released. During the later stage of product development, there is very little incentive to think about whether a manual is needed or not. There is tremendous pressure to get the product out and the manual is blocking the way. So what are you going to do? Just released the frickin’ manual.

Now, what if instead of treating a manual as a to-do item, make it a goal not to release a manual and ask everybody “What if we create a product so simple and so easy to use that we don’t need to produce a manual?”

Enough with the manuals. The truth is I am just too lazy to write one :).

Angelo talks about another usability point – “Think of making the stupid people happy.”

I don’t agree with the use of “stupid” to describe your target users or thinking about stupid people during design. In the first place, the “stupid user” is the term used by arrogant engineers who can’t accept that their design is bad. It is easier for them to blame other people for not having the “intellect” to figure out things than accepting the truth that they designed the product only to satisfy their intellectual lust.

It is not about stupidity. It is about the gap between what you know, what your users know, and what you think your users know. Of course, making the gap as small as possible is not easy. As Angelo puts it, “it takes more effort to design with usability in mind than just putting in all the bells and whistles in one place.”



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