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Ask Slashdot: When Is the User Experience Too Good?

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the thought-process-behind-drm dept.

Software 397

gadzook33 writes "I had an interesting experience at work recently. A colleague suggested during a meeting that we were building something that would make it far too easy for the customer to perform a certain task; a task that my colleague felt was deleterious. Without going into specifics, I believe an apt analogy would be giving everyone in the country a flying car. While this would no doubt be enjoyable, without proper training and regulation it would also be tremendously dangerous (also assume training and regulating is not practical in this case). I retorted that ours is not to reason why, and that we had the responsibility to develop the best possible solution, end of story. However, in the following days I have begun to doubt my position and wonder if we don't have some responsibility to artificially 'cripple' the solution and in doing so protect the user from themselves (build a car that stays on the ground). I do not for a second imagine that I am playing the part of Oppenheimer; this is a much more practical issue and less of an ethical one. But is there something to this?"

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397 comments

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I assume... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813819)

I assume you work for Zynga?

Re:I assume... (4, Interesting)

lxs (131946) | about a year ago | (#43814277)

Or Amazon. That no-click shopping patent is just around the corner.

first post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813825)

first post

like Windows? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813831)

Are you sure you want to delete that file?

Re:like Windows? (-1, Offtopic)

Karganeth (1017580) | about a year ago | (#43813877)

hold shift when pressing delete. it deletes permanently, no questions asked.

Re:like Windows? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813945)

It still asks to confirm when you do this. The difference is that it deletes the file rather than just move to the recycle bin.

Re:like Windows? (1)

msauve (701917) | about a year ago | (#43814111)

rm -rf /

Re:like Windows? (1)

jabberw0k (62554) | about a year ago | (#43814233)

sudo rm -rf / ... see also xkcd [xkcd.com]

Re:like Windows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43814261)

Reminds me of when I broke the habit of logging into the VPS as root, after I did an rm -rf * ...without realizing I had switched my active directory to / on accident.

or like clipy (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#43814025)

that asks you I see you are trying to do X do you need help?

Re:like Windows? (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#43814321)

Most software you need to do the following.

Create Date
Read Data
Update Data
Delete Data.

CRUD for short. However in terms of the UI
you need to change the order to RCUD Read, Create, Update, Delete. As those are in the order of damage you can create from low to high.

So Reading data should be the easiest to do on your system, as most people should just be reading data.
Secondly create new data, should be the next step, as if you created something wrong typically it is the easiest to remove.
Updating data can cause more problems as you could change correct data to bad data, and often most systems you will not know what happened after you changed it.
Then Delete data, which is obviously could be bad if it was too easy.

Too good? I think not (5, Insightful)

grasshoppa (657393) | about a year ago | (#43813833)

If your interface would allow a user to shoot themselves in the foot without proper precautions, then your user experience is, by definition, *not good*.

The goal of any application is to let the user perform a function FASTER than manipulating the data themselves, manually. If your UI enables the user to destroy a significant portion of that effort easily, then you have failed to achieve your goal.

Re:Too good? I think not (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813889)

Wordpress has a 'shoot-yourself-in-the-foot' option in the admin settings. You can just enter a path to point your entire Wordpress site to a new root folder... which if you get wrong means you can't access your settings anymore to change it.

Re:Too good? I think not (4, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#43813981)

If your interface would allow a user to shoot themselves in the foot without proper precautions, then your user experience is, by definition, *not good*.

What if the user interface lets them shoot everyone else in the foot at no cost to themselves, while accomplishing their task quickly and with ease.

It's a great user interface from the user's point of view, but a really terrible system to have.

Re:Too good? I think not (5, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#43813985)

"If your UI enables the user to destroy a significant portion of that effort easily, then you have failed to achieve your goal."

Ultimately, your goal is to get paid. If you don't do what the customer wants, you have failed to achieve your goal.

It is acceptable to try to dissuade them. It is acceptable to warn them. But document it when you do. And if they still want it despite all your warnings and attempts to convince, then give it to them. That's what you're getting paid for. If they complain later, show them your documentation and where they insisted even though you advised against it.

I once worked for a company that demanded the ability to do X in the software, despite my warnings that it was a bad idea. So I put in confirmations. When they first clicked the button to do X, it first popped up a message saying "This will result in _____. Are you sure you want to do this?". If they clicked Yes, then another confirmation popped up: "Are you really sure?" And if they clicked yes again, a third confirmation popped up: "Are you really, really, REALLY sure?"

An administrator mentioned to me later that he thought the warnings were funny, but he liked the fact they were there.

Re:Too good? I think not (2)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#43814059)

Ultimately, your goal is to get paid. If you don't do what the customer wants, you have failed to achieve your goal.

What if the ability to do X harmed others?

Re:Too good? I think not (4, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year ago | (#43814303)

Ultimately, your goal is to get paid. If you don't do what the customer wants, you have failed to achieve your goal. What if the ability to do X harmed others?

Many companies exhibit sociopathic behaviors in pursuit of maximizing shareholder value.

Re:Too good? I think not (5, Interesting)

grasshoppa (657393) | about a year ago | (#43814099)

Agreed. At the end of the day, those who write the checks get what they want.. I was speaking more of the theory rather than the practical.

In those situations where I've recommended and warned against the functionality, and the user still demands it, I have considered it more my failure to communicate the risk than the user's failure. But, as you say, I wanted to get paid so I delivered what the user requested.

Re:Too good? I think not (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#43814269)

I have considered it more my failure to communicate the risk than the user's failure

I don't have mod points today so I'll just say I like your attitude. :-) This is, in my opinion, a professional mentality.

Re:Too good? I think not (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year ago | (#43814179)

So you were responsible for the Windows Vista's endless warnings.

Re:Too good? I think not (5, Insightful)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year ago | (#43814309)

It should be noted that your whole post has the caveat "unless someone could get hurt". Working in heavy industry, we quite frequently tell our clients "No, you do not want X. X does not make sense, and you will hurt yourselves. You want Z instead." If the client insists, we stop doing business with them. If the crane you built collapses because the customer wanted a "press here to collapse crane" button, nobody is going to give a damn that you have documentation proving the client really really wanted the button.

When it comes to health and safety, the customer is not always right.

"destroy"? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43814123)

"destroy a significant portion of that effort" - what an odd word to use.

Let me guess - you're American.

Re:Too good? I think not (2)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year ago | (#43814127)

Mod parrent up.

Think about the typical user – then subtract 20 points of IQ. It is always somebody's first day.

Think about the the worst case scenario – what is it and what is the overall effect.

I have found a good method is to have a “user” mode and a “admin” mode when the stakes are modest to high. Everybody uses the user mode which, in your case, would keep the car on the ground. If somebody needs to take off they can enter admin mode – but it is clearly in admin mode. And add lots of soft stops – power users always think more then they actually do.

Re:Too good? I think not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43814149)

I would agree with this. If the user can do something very easily, but it turns out that may not have really been what they wanted to do (and there is no way to undo it), then that is not a good user experience.

Re:Too good? I think not (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#43814165)

Stakeholder management needed. Bring in the users, the people who are managing the users, etc, and ask them.

Quality is defined as the degree to which a deliverable meets requirements. If the feature, as-is, meets requirements better than the feature not-as-is, then this is the best situation. Imagine if rm didn't offer a -f option. I have this source code directory, a git clone I no longer need... rm -rf and ... yes ... yes... yes... yes | rm -r and I get "screw you for piping stuff at me!" Shell scripts suddenly suck because rm operates in -i by default, even in shell scripts. This is not a quality rm implementation because it fails a ton of usability requirements; but it'll stop me from shooting myself in the face, right?

Re:Too good? I think not (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#43814255)

Quality is defined as the degree to which a deliverable meets requirements.

Ever notice that when you deliver something, they've managed to change the requirements?

Re:Too good? I think not (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43814313)

That is just an alias and easy to fix, but yeah a huge PITA.

I can see it on a desktop but on a server OS that sort of handholding should not exist.

Re:Too good? I think not (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43814285)

This is the sort of braindead thinking that leads rm to really being rm -i on so many server OS.

Sometimes I really do want data gone faster.

Re:Too good? I think not (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43814287)

If your interface would allow a user to shoot themselves in the foot without proper precautions, then your user experience is, by definition, *not good*.

I would respectfully disagree. I would much prefer a way to unshoot my foot than be bothered by "proper precautions." Why does every action have to be so final? It's not like disk space is at a premium anymore. I know, that programming an undo is hard and tedious, but it's far more helpful than constantly putting up warnings that people learn to ignore.

Depends ... (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43813835)

Who is the target market for your product?

If it's for Joe Sixpack, and he might metaphorically poke out an eye with it, then maybe.

If it's for system admins and the like who neither need nor want training wheels, not so much.

You certainly can expose too much functionality to people who shouldn't have it. But you can also make something useless to the people who actually do need to do it.

Re:Depends ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813957)

An obvious option is the reply-all button in an email client. You want to find it, but perhaps make it 0.1 sec longer to reach than standard reply.

That's way too ambiguous. (1)

3.5 stripes (578410) | about a year ago | (#43813839)

If it were a case of causing physical, emotional or economic harm, possibly.. but if it just makes aunt sally think she's a programmer, where is the harm in that?

Re:That's way too ambiguous. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813937)

I suspect it's close to the latter. They probably make money from additional services for doing trivial things that the client cannot do due to the lack of a front end. I've had to design in maintenance requirements in the past, purely for this reason alone - despite my protestations.

Re:That's way too ambiguous. (2)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#43814083)

one word:
Access

Re:That's way too ambiguous. (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#43814095)

It's absolutely far too ambiguous. If he has to do it by analogy because of NDA concerns he could have at least done it with an imaginary software feature that we could consider properly. But to compare it with the existence of a physical machine. Pointless.

Re:That's way too ambiguous. (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#43814301)

If it were a case of causing physical, emotional or economic harm, possibly.. but if it just makes aunt sally think she's a programmer, where is the harm in that?

Too many people think they are programmers already. They learned how to do something in BASIC that prints "Hello" and think that that means that they know as much about software development as people who do it as a full-time job. Then they make demands based on that "knowledge".

Apple-like thinking. (5, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | about a year ago | (#43813843)

However, in the following days I have begun to doubt my position and wonder if we don't have some responsibility to artificially 'cripple' the solution and in doing so protect the user from themselves (build a car that stays on the ground).

I suppose this is the rationalization that Apple uses internally to justify their walled garden. Gotta protect users from themselves whether they want it or not.

Rather than being assholes like Apple, perhaps you could make this configurable in some fashion? Whatever the hell "this" is?

Re:Apple-like thinking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43814037)

Apple has forgotten their roots. The lessons of good interface design went in the trash for the sake of shiny things.

If you want to get your interface started on the right foot, read Apple's original Human Interface Guidelines,, the About Face series, and Jef Raskin's The Humane Interface.

Re:Apple-like thinking. (1)

D1G1T (1136467) | about a year ago | (#43814113)

Because people hate apple's interface designs. Oh, wait...

Re:Apple-like thinking. (4, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about a year ago | (#43814167)

I suppose this is the rationalization that Apple uses internally to justify their walled garden. Gotta protect users from themselves whether they want it or not.

Apple has a front-line customer support model. That means that they have to directly deal with every grandmother, novice, etc that touches their products. So yes they make things so that they can't be tampered with. As a power user, you dislike it, but if you had to deal with direct customer support, I suppose you'd change your tune really quick. You don't like it, don't buy Apple products. And I suppose you don't use OS X. I spend more time using Terminal in OS X than I anything else.

Rather than being assholes like Apple, perhaps you could make this configurable in some fashion? Whatever the hell "this" is?

As long as he is willing to deal with any support nightmares that come with that decision.

Slashdot-like thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43814281)

However, in the following days I have begun to doubt my position and wonder if we don't have some responsibility to artificially 'cripple' the solution and in doing so protect the user from themselves (build a car that stays on the ground).

I suppose this is the rationalization that Apple uses internally to justify their walled garden. Gotta protect users from themselves whether they want it or not.

Yes, the users don't want that sort of product, which is why Apple's products sell so poorly despite being so cheap.

I can't imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813849)

I can't imagine a UX issue ever being apt to giving everyone flying cars.

Plus why are you asking the FOSS crowd about UX? Have you seen the GIMP?

Re:I can't imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43814061)

Have you seen the GIMP?

No, I hear he's still sleeping.

FB (1)

KraxxxZ01 (2445360) | about a year ago | (#43813851)

Have you ever tried to unlike something? It's not easy and I'm sure it's that way by design. Feature must be there, but obscuring it makes people unlike less pages. This is profit driven decision.

Re:FB (2)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#43814039)

I've unliked plenty of things. It never occurred to me that it was anything other than obvious.

For post or a comment, the "Like" text turns to "Unlike". A simple toggle for something that doesn't matter.

For a page like, The "Like" button turns to "Liked" with a checkmark. Hover or click that and "Unlike" is on the drop down-menu. Unliking a page is a rarer and bigger significance of event than a comment like, so it's good design to make it so that it can't be done with a single click.

There's lots of things to complain about in the Facebook UI, but I don't see this as one of them.

Restrict Access (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813857)

I see this more of an area you can utilize roles and only give properly trained people who know how to "fly" the car access to do so.

Paperclip (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813859)

So utilize an annoying animated Paperclip that asks the user if they are sure they want to do that three or four times.

This is more common than you think. (1)

adameros (851468) | about a year ago | (#43813861)

This is just like every time software asks you, "are you sure?" before deleting a file or record.

Re:This is more common than you think. (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43813931)

This is just like every time software asks you, "are you sure?" before deleting a file or record.

And why it's so easy for shitware like the ask.com toolbar to end up on systems.

People got used to thinking "oh, crap, I just need to keep clicking next until it finally installs". Now you need to check every page of the install to be sure that installing someone's toolbar or whatever isn't checked by default (which it always is).

People either start ignoring the warnings, or stop caring what they say and click next anyway.

Re:This is more common than you think. (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#43814193)

Confirmation dialogue boxes should be reserved for really damaging operations like "rm -rf /", and people who abuse them should be forced to install an app that asks "are you sure?" after every keystroke until they learn.

When is the user experience too good? (4, Funny)

David Gould (4938) | about a year ago | (#43813863)

Since 1984.

Depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813867)

Are we talking about a Wernher von Braun "The rocket worked perfectly except for landing on the wrong planet." kind of experience, or disable ads kind of experience? Why wouldn't you want your users to have a good experience? Are you making spy software and making too good?

NO... but you're probably looking at it wrong (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813885)

NO... a better user experience is better. However, if what you're doing leads the user to an experience that is NOT what they wanted to do, then it's NOT a "good" user experience. There was a cartoon, pre-web, with two unlabelled buttons on the wall... this one turns off all the lights, that one destroys the world. Easy to turn off all the lights, but also easy to make a fatal mistake.

Power User mode (5, Insightful)

FrostDust (1009075) | about a year ago | (#43813891)

Put a button that toggles your program's "dangerous flying car" interface, with a nice warning about they can now wipe their system with a single click, and you aren't responsible if they misuse the software.

It depends on the details (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813905)

The flying car could be a couple of different things:
(1) Flexibility to adjust parameters in your system allowing end users to customize or tweak things to their heart's content.
(2) An intuitive way to interact with the system, that does not increase or decrease the scope of access to parameters in the system.

In #1 above, there are many possibilities beyond those you may have considered or tested. Are all possibilities going to work, or will most users get confused or bewildered by the complexity of the system?

In #2 above, there is essentially no risk in giving the user the flying car. You will empower them to do things in a more intuitive manner, without letting their level of confusion or bewilderment be increased.

The reality probably lies somewhere between #1 and #2 above. By looking at these as opposite ends of a spectrum, perhaps you can see your way through to a compromise that looks more like #2.

Users need protecting from themselves (4, Insightful)

Imagix (695350) | about a year ago | (#43813909)

Yes, there is. Part of the UI is to protect the users from inadvertent operations. That's part of why various destructive operations in programs have the "are you sure?" dialog box. The good ones also have a checkbox that says "Don't ask this again". There's a difference between making it hard to do a task, vs preventing the task altogether. There may be legitimate reasons why one may need to do the said task. Also, provide a way for the user to consciously remove the speed bumps you're putting in. I don't mind software that wants to hold your hand by default, but I want a way to tell it to get the heck out of my way and let me do my task.

Re:Users need protecting from themselves (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43813969)

The good ones also have a checkbox that says "Don't ask this again".

Please, the presence of a checkbox which says don't ask me again doesn't signify anything useful.

Out of the box, IE more or less says "you are about to access the internet now, are you sure?" unless you check the damned box.

Minecraft analogy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813911)

This is a debate that has raged ever since the first user mod was made for Minecraft: ease of use vs. making life too easy.

On one side you have people praising you for making things easy for them, and on the other you have people accusing you of cheating them out of a sense of accomplishment. (The latter are, in return, frequently accused of being autistic.)

Ultimately I don't think it's the developer's place to decide if something is too easy. Your attempts to correct this "problem" will always be to the detriment of your users.

Flying car? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813913)

We can't know what it is you're creating, but it's akin to giving everyone a flying car.... Yet we are supposed to answer if that would be bad or good when we don't what your product is? When your question is already hard to read.... I honestly don't get what is going on with Slashdot anymore.

How is this is even answerable? Am I missing something here?

A better philosophical approach (5, Insightful)

jwales (97533) | about a year ago | (#43813915)

Learn to think in the wiki way.

Rather than make it hard for users to do what they want to do, on the (very valid) assumption that some of them will do bad things, or things they don't really want to do, it is better to make it easy for users to recover from those mistakes, and for others to recover easily from any side effects of those mistakes.

This is not always possible. But it usually is.

Jimmy Wales - Wikipedia.org

Re:A better philosophical approach (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#43814055)

Learn to think in the wiki way.

Or just have an undo button...

The thing that leads me to think this isn't the whole story is the flying car analogy at the beginning. The trouble is that if users can crash their flying car into someone else's house, then it's no longer just their problem, even if they could undo the damage to their own car (somewhat stretching the analogy there).

Jimmy Wales - Wikipedia.org

Say what? Is this guy the real deal? The skeptic in me says no, but the rather low user ID makes me doubt my skepticism.

Re:A better philosophical approach (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43814101)

The wiki way - Take content from everyone, protect yourself by being non-profit, and give yourself a huge salary.

Remember (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813919)

Remember when Slashdot featured interesting news articles rather than stupid questions from stupid people? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

I've heard this before (4, Insightful)

decipher_saint (72686) | about a year ago | (#43813921)

I've heard this before and every time it was about letting the software bypass some business rule important to an external process.

Well yeah of course I could let you add a negative Debit for an Asset but your accounting department will come at you with sharpened coffee mug or something.

Well, I guess the other time I hear "this software is too good" usually comes from sales and it makes my skin crawl every time.

Re:I've heard this before (1)

David Gould (4938) | about a year ago | (#43814067)

Well yeah of course I could let you add a negative Debit for an Asset but your accounting department will come at you with sharpened coffee mug or something.

If you're very, very lucky.

Don't cripple... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813925)

... bring Gandalf, the Wizard, to guide the user into making sure the user understands how to use it properly. For examples that fit the car analogy, look into aircraft autopilot systems, or Google's self-guided cars.

Obviously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813933)

I don't want my cat walking across my keyboard/trackpad to be able to format my hard drive. Making an improbable action easy to take is pretty much the opposite of a good user experience (especially when it has consequences).

One guideline (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813935)

Don't make it real easy for an untrained user to shoot him/herself in the foot.

Now, what about "rm -rf *.*"? An untrained user wouldn't run that command unless they were coached, or it was part of someone else's script (app).

Not Sure About Too Good, But Not Isolated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813949)

With software, I think too many things are considered in isolation, without considering the impacts of what's being done. The features themselves should be good, but so should the impact.

For instance, if a forum has the optoin to report users for spam, phishing, and other nefarious activity, and it's really easy to use, this is good. However, if some part of the process makes it likely that the user being reported will be inadvertently added to the reporting user's friends list, bypassing all filters, then something about the reporting feature needs to be changed. Whether it's an acceptable trade off to lose some usability or fun of a feature to prevent bad things from happening is a judgement call. It the OP's case, it's impossible to say for sure because we lack details, but there's nothing at all wrong with considering whether or not a feature has unwanted side effects.
 

Ease of use isn't always good user experience (1)

N3Roaster (888781) | about a year ago | (#43813959)

Ease of use and good user experience are not always synonymous. In most cases they are, but if you're making it easy to do something that can't be easily undone, someone will do that accidentally and then have the frustration of fixing that. For example, I was recently working on allowing some software to interface with a connected scale. One of the things you can do through that interface is tare the scale, but after implementing that I decided that it was too easy to accidentally hit the tare button instead of the weigh button with the consequence that the person using the software would then have to re-tare the scale and re-weigh to get the correct measurement. So I took the tare button out figuring that people would generally rather do that at the scale itself anyway. I'll probably put it back in at some point, but it will be a little harder to hit that accidentally when I do. Your example is too vague to say who is right in your particular case.

have we learned nothing from google ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813977)

Monetize it. Sell the "car", but if someone wants their "flying car", that's $25 per mo. extra.

Is this a hidden Windows UAC vs Linux question? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43813987)

You User Interface design should take account of the users. Some users want to be able to type rm -fr * and others want six modal dialogue boxes warning them not to do it before it happens..... Know your users, then define your interface :-)

Social responsibility is part of good design... (1)

firewrought (36952) | about a year ago | (#43814019)

We can argue the exact extent of the responsibility and how strongly to favor the group over the individual (or visa-versa), but the consideration is very real.

Advanced mode? (2)

Twinbee (767046) | about a year ago | (#43814023)

It's a good idea to help protect the user from themselves. But is it really difficult to give a warning message saying 'Be careful....blah, blah are you sure you want to proceed?'.

Also have a simple mode, and an advanced mode, then let the user decide whether they want more power. You don't have to force a single ideology upon anyone.

in response to your flying car analogy (1)

flyingcardude (2931637) | about a year ago | (#43814027)

First up, making features artificially bad is not only a badtechnical case, but its also a bad technical case. We engineers have a tendency to thibk that othet littlings aren't as smart as we are, but give them a week or two with the new system and they'll adapt. Then again, your flying car analogy is inaccurate. As an aerospace engineer, flying cars need to be autonomous. That will reduce training, so wrong assumption on your part. As for regulation,heard of GPS? Safety, hmm... How about a parachute that is deployed by rockets when the power goes out, akin to canopies popping out of fighter planes in peril, as found in the terrafugia models? Wrong analogy and wrong assumptions.

But is there something to this? (1)

Stormbringer (3643) | about a year ago | (#43814041)

No.

What business are you in -- product development or behavior modification? Hint: one of those is good for your bottom line; indulging in the other is deleterious to it.

If you're concerned about inadvertent consequences, make sure there are adequate warnings. After that, you're done.

answer: every time you're forcing one to exist (1)

islisis (589694) | about a year ago | (#43814049)

How about stop trying to mold your users, remove your head from the cloud and help reverse a numbifying trend by thinking about something concrete - UI design instead?
Design a UI which teaches users, and let them create the only experience which matters, their own, thank you very much

Youtube ContentID? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43814057)

One wonders if the fine folks at Google had this thought before they released ContentID for Youtube, and made the content removal process amazingly easy for content providers to stifle free speech and fair use.

Re: When is the User Experience too good? (1)

Jeremi (14640) | about a year ago | (#43814069)

A colleague suggested during a meeting that we were building something that would make it far too easy for the customer to perform a certain task; a task that my colleague felt was deleterious.

Ah, building a porn site, are you?

I don't think you gave us enough information. (1)

cshark (673578) | about a year ago | (#43814075)

Really really hard to say without knowing the specifics of the project. I we're talking in abstracts, then you can argue either side and be correct. Without actually knowing what the project is, however, it's kind of an academic exercise. ie. Won't give you much actionable input in the real world, if that's what you're looking for.

You need to better define "good" (3, Interesting)

cloudmaster (10662) | about a year ago | (#43814077)

The question isn't how easy it is for a user to do something bad; the question is how easy is it for a user to inadvertently do something bad. If the application is properly designed, all tasks should not only be easy to perform, but easy to perform accurately. Presumably, this deleterious task is something that does potentially need to be done, so it should be easy to do. But it should only be easy to do if the end user actually wants to do it, and not easy to do if the intention of the end user is to do something else. Your problem as a designer is to figure out how to accurately assess the user's intent.

Whose Department? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43814087)

I make ze rockets go UP,
who cares where zey come DOWN!
Zat is not my department".
says Wernher Von Braun.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjDEsGZLbio&feature=youtu.be [youtube.com]
(Tom Lehrer)

Re:Whose Department? (1)

eyenot (102141) | about a year ago | (#43814257)

I would say that John Whiteside Parsons, the real Father of Rocketry, is a safer example, BUT ...

Suggested Reading (1)

kemosabi (659932) | about a year ago | (#43814091)

Chapter 1 of Spolsky's "User Interface Design for Programmers", which is basically this article from his site: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/uibook/chapters/fog0000000057.html/ [joelonsoftware.com] . You should try to decide for yourself how much this applies to your situation, but there's another set of articles, one called "Choices = Headaches" that you should look at as well. You may not agree with everything you read, and you won't get a simple answer to your question, but these will be food for thought.

That's how innovation works (1)

doublegeek (1246564) | about a year ago | (#43814103)

I'd say build the feature and deal with the consequences in an evolutionary fashion. To use your flying car example, if everybody bought a flying car, there would quickly arise a need for regulation and airspace control - and that need would just as quickly be filled. Even in your hypothetical situation where there's no mechanism for regulation and control, if the problem got out of hand, someone or some organization would quickly create that mechanism. The end result would be that people would have their flying cars, but only be able to operate them in a restricted but safe fashion. That's still better than not building the flying cars because you're afraid of the consequences.

So I'd say build whatever it is, and let things adapt as necessary to deal with the consequences.

No, there isn't anything to it. (3, Insightful)

Slartibartfast (3395) | about a year ago | (#43814115)

It's simple, really: either your users should be doing it, or they shouldn't. If they should, it should be easy to do. If they shouldn't, well, they shouldn't. Any gray area just means you need to better define the parameters.

I BM, U BM, we all BM for IBM (1)

whizbang77045 (1342005) | about a year ago | (#43814139)

This sounds entirely too much like IBM in the 1960s and 1970s. The user really didn't need to know how things worked; IBM would take care of them.

Re:I BM, U BM, we all BM for IBM (1)

danielk1982 (868580) | about a year ago | (#43814249)

Isn't that every consumer software company?

As long as it is reversable, don't make it harder (2)

gurps_npc (621217) | about a year ago | (#43814203)

When installing the "Launch Nuclear Missiles" button, yes, you make it hard to do my mistake. You don't make it a single, large button easy to hit by accident. Instead you put a locking plastic case around it, and require two users to activate.

But if the action can easily be undone, then keep it easy to do.

If you are talking about something like permanently deleting a database, then YES, MAKE IT HARDER.

Of course there is. (1)

eyenot (102141) | about a year ago | (#43814205)

It's obvious that you can't put every tool in the hands of every consumer. This is a subset of the fact that a certain level of technical control isn't fitting or wise for every user.

All the same, I believe the best app offers the most power to the user, even if that takes awhile longer to code in.

The best app offers the most controls no matter what. And "no matter what" does qualify you to place them behind some "advanced options" control, or inside a plain text (or, why not, hexadecimal) config file, or in a registry entry, or wherever you need to hide it to feel that it's safe from "everybody but not everybody-everybody".

If it's freeware, consider charging for the added feature, and even requiring the customer send in a handwritten form with their tax ID and other business credentials, and signing their agreement to a series of legal disclaimers. Then you'll have their alleged good-will in writing, too, and protect yourself from damages.

Or, make it an undocumented command-line option. Then you could tie the user to having to settle with whatever they set this thing to for that session, and they couldn't just variably change it mid-session. And, if they want to know how to get to the solution, they can ask the company and the company can tell that customer how to get it done.

Is it a Windows app? If you have any pangs of guilt, I believe an "allow advanced features" checkbox that forces the operating system to validate their administrative credentials (even if it's not necessary for the purposes of the app's interaction with the operating system) is a decent enough way to go.

Two Words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43814215)

"Trigger Locks"

Sometimes, a point-and-click interface is too simple.

Learnability/Efficiency/Security (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43814223)

In a UI class I took, we learned that you should focus on 3 (main) things when designing a UI:

- Learnability
- Efficiency
- Security

Often times, you'll have to make design trade-offs between the three. Look at the slides I link to to learn the differences (you might want to look through all the slides for the class, some good stuff there):

http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/6/sp13/6.813/courseMaterial/topics/topic2/lectureNotes/L02-learnability/L02-learnability.pdf
http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/6/sp13/6.813/courseMaterial/topics/topic2/lectureNotes/L04-efficiency/L04-efficiency.pdf
http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/6/sp13/6.813/courseMaterial/topics/topic2/lectureNotes/L05-safety/L05-safety.pdf

All slides (I believe it is open to the public):
http://stellar.mit.edu/S/course/6/sp13/6.813/materials.html

Never artificially cripple your software. (2)

flayzernax (1060680) | about a year ago | (#43814227)

If it needs to do something critical or troubleshoot something make it easy and obvious to take the appropriate steps. Don't obfuscate controls or code.

The only reason you might want to tone down these things is if it makes the software too complex by overwhelming a user with options. Even then it should still be easy to get the more advanced functionality.

This is my number one pet peeve with software. Windows included. The network dialog for wireless connections gives back no sane feedback unless you click through 4 or 5 dialogs. Because Microsoft believes "You do not need that information". Well how else am I to figure out what my NIC is doing?

Anyway. The more deep and open your softwares interface is. The better it will be.

You're just wrong ... (1)

danielk1982 (868580) | about a year ago | (#43814241)

I can create an application that displays a big red button on the desktop which, when pressed, will completely wipe the hard drive without an annoying modal confirmation dialog box. Sure it'll give great "user experience" to those that would like to wipe their drive but is that reason enough to install and use something like this on a daily basis?

Giving users easy access to something destructive is not good UX design. It's the definition of bad UX design.

Common path is easy, Uncommon path a bit harder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43814289)

A lot of times you build a UI and you can do a lot of things. I have worked on systems that have many, many ways to configure them. A good UI guides the user down the most likely path while allowing an advanced user that needs something specific access to what they need. An example is a windows property window. Many of these have an "Advanced" button. Most users will only be interested in what is on the initial window, but advanced users could access what they need. You could put everything on the first window, but that actually decreases the value. So you may have things you want to have configurable, but you don't want to make them extremely visible because it makes more important things less visible.

Design it Really HOT (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about a year ago | (#43814291)

...and the lawyers will love you.

Common topic in human factors (1)

bkmoore (1910118) | about a year ago | (#43814305)

Not to use the flying car analogy again, but a lot of systems that used to be manual are now automated in aviation, shipping, or in power generation. On the surface, automation should make us all safer, but it creates new hazards. To take aviation as an example, earlier a typical aircrew consisted of two pilots, a flight engineer, a navigator, and sometimes a radio operator, etc. They were all very busy and involved in piloting the aircraft. With automation, that aircrew has been replaced by two pilots who are really there to monitor and make some good decisions when things go wrong. But many studies have shown that humans are really bad at monitoring things and a lot of modern mishaps have inattention, or lack of good airmanship as casual factors.

CYA (1)

geekmux (1040042) | about a year ago | (#43814315)

Pure innovation is dead. Litigation and the resulting liability has killed it. Unless you want your career to follow, you can and should CYA whenever and wherever possible. A sad, but very true fact of our world today.

This sounds like a question more pertinent for your legal counsel to answer, and let them be the judge on whether this is a practical, moral, or ethical issue.

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