Szymon Kaliski

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Mastering Tools

But there was another bias, even in the more innovative work - and that bias had to do with deciding to set aside technology and user interactions that were "too difficult" for users to learn. I was particularly disappointed to learn, for example, that one of the principal websites offering knowledge retrieval on the web had concluded that a number of potentially more powerful searching tools should not be offered because user testing discovered that they were not easy to use. Why do we assume that, in computing, ease of use - particularly ease of use by people with little training - is desirable for anyone other than a beginner? What is surprising is that, in serious discussions with serious computer/human factors experts, who are presumably trying to address hard problems of knowledge use and collaboration, ease of use keeps emerging as a key design consideration. Doesn't anyone ever aspire to serious amateur or pro status in knowledge work?

— Improving Our Ability to Improve - Douglas Engelbart

(...) it is easy for software designers to fall into a single-minded quest, in which ease of use (especially for beginning users) becomes a holy grail. But what is ease of use? How much does it matter to whom? A violin is extremely difficult for novices to play, but it would be foolish to argue that it should therefore be replaced by the autoharp. The value of an artifact may lie in high-performance use by virtuosos, or in ease of use for some special class of users, such as children or people with disabilities. There is room for the software equivalents of high-strung racing cars alongside automatic-transmission minivans.

Bringing Design To Software - Terry Winograd


  1. 2020-12-13Improvements vs Breakthroughs1
  2. 2020-12-13Bicycle for the Mind1

389 words last tended to on 2024-01-29let me know what you think