Sunday, March 16, 2008


8 p.m. Right. Ridiculous to have had a video for two years and never to have been able to record anything. Also is marvelous FV 67 HV VideoPlus. Simple matter of following operating instructions, locating buttons, etc., certain.

8:15 p.m. Humph. Cannot locate operating instructions.

8.35 p.m. Hah! Found operating instructions under Hello!. Right. 'Programming your video is as easy as making a phone call.' Excellent.

8.40 p.m. 'Point the remote control at the video recorder.' V. easy. 'Turn to index.' Aargh, horror list with 'Timer controlled simultaneous HiFi sound recordings', 'the decorder needer for encoded programmes', etc. Merele wish to record Penny Husbands-Bosworth's rant, not spend all evening reading treatise on spying techniques.

8.50 p.m. Ah. Diagram. 'Buttons for IMC functions'. But what are IMC functions?

8.55 p.m. Decide to ignore that page. Turn to 'Timer-controlled recordings with VideoPlus': '1. Meet the requirements for VideoPlus.' What requirements? Hate the stupid video. Feel exactly the same when trying to follow signposts on roads. Know in heart that signposts and video manual do not make sense but still cannot believe authorities would be so cruel as to deliberately dupe us all. Feel incompetent fool and as if everyone else in the world understands something which is being kept from me.

- Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1996)

In this small part, Helen Fielding touches on various issues such as usability, effectiveness of help manuals, and how an average user feels when they are not able to carry out a particular task. There are several electronic equipments/instruments that make you feel like an '... incompetent fool and as if everyone else in the world understands something which is being kept from me.' Am I that dumb? Are others more 'tech savvy' that me? Nope! The truth is that instruments are not user-friendly or they are not 'usable'. I spend my time trying to learn how to operate the instrument. Is this fair?

So, we know that most of instruments are not usable. How do the manufactures make up for this flaw? You guessed it! They write help manuals. (smart aren't they?) Are these really useful? Judging from Bridget's experience, I guess not. The help manuals are so full off jargons that you need to have designed the equipment to know what it means. Wait a minute.... if I had designed the equipment, I would know how to use it and would not actually need a manual. Hmm, I guess the audience is not defined and the attempt to make it easy for the reader falls flat.

Not only are these instruments not usable, they end up making you feel stupid. Bridget is not feeling too good about herself. I have come across so many people who feel small because they do not know how to operate a particular particular phone. The users should not be made to feel inefficient as it is not their fault! It is the instruments fault.

Technology is meant to make lives easier not complicate it further... Let's hope people begun to take usability issues more seriously and actually design instruments that are a pleasure to use.

(Thanks to Helen Fielding for writing such a hilarious and amazing book.)


ripul said...

I recently "upgraded" from a Samsung basic phone to a Smartphone -- HTC 710 to be "approximately accurate."

I usually forgetful I could not express the joy of having a calendar that would sync with the one on my computer. I did made me weak in my knees. I would never miss an appointment again. Also the added advantage of surfing the web while lying on my bed and replying to my email from the loo was enough to cough up a huge sum of my hard (hardly!) earned money!

The joy not shortlived, it died within a day of acquiring the Windows 6.1 Mobile OS phone. Damm! Is doent even remotely behave like phone, but surely it does behave like a slow computer.

Can I make a call?
You can moron, if you can find the right contacts e-silly. I have resorted to looking in my last called list to work around the difficult to find contacts.

I am sure you can send an SMS.
Sure you can. Press Start, find Messaging menu, search for a new message button (oh its hidden under menu button! Cul!) then click New. Now click menu again to add recipient, go through an ordeal to find the right recipient, and god forbids if you need more recipients. Huff... puff... now i can start typing. That was easy!

Can you set an Alarm?
If you can find it. Where should it be?

Can you surf the web?
I would rather not! too difficult to set up -- pathetic graphics.

Can you check you emails?
Yes, when my service provider does not put firewalls.


- Ripul Kumar

Satyajit said...

still to meet a person who has been able to set the clock on their VCRs.

Archana Narayan said...

Rips, I really believe the more features a phone has the more complicated it is to use! Also, biggest mistake is to switch brands (actually phones!). You have to unlearn the logic based on which you were operating the previous phone and learn the new one! Painful!

Satya, that is so true... my mom mastered the art only when she realized that she would miss SRKs Kaun Banega.... on weekends when she went out. I guess that why we use DVDs now as you dont have the option to record at all! But seriously i think CDs are more painful to maintain that cassettes. One tiny scratch and I miss the climax!! AAArrghhh!