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The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

What’s the Difference Between a Usability Issue and User Stupidity?

Normally, we’d never accuse a user of stupidity, but in this case it’s appropriate because I’m the user. When the iPhone first came out, I got one.  Then my daughter got one.  When she showed me hers, it went from portrait to landscape when she changed the unit’s orientation.  Mine did not.  She explained that I probably had the initial version of iOS. She had the newer version, which did the automatic adjustment.  She told me to download the newer iOS. I did.  It wiped out everything I had accumulated.  And I mean wiped it out.  Irretrievably. So I pouted.  I eschewed the iPhone and essentially used something the size of a brick for the next three years while the iPhone world whizzed past me. Then I inherited an iPhone 4 when my most recent ex- purchased the iPhone 5. I have always been more comfortable with asynchronous communications than the synchronous type.  I like writing rather than talking.  I enjoyed writing  letters (on paper) back in the day. I adopted email early and still use it constantly.  And so I embraced texting on my (for me) new iDevice. And that’s when I got into trouble. Lots of it — by sending texts to someone other than the person for whom they were intended. I have a close, affectionate relationship with my most recent ex-.  So I send her texts that reflect it.  When my new lady friend received one of these (innocent though it was)it provoked a furious response and led to an exchange that was almost terminal.  It took me about a week to worm and grovel my way out of that little faux pas. And it taught me a valuable usability lesson.  Check the message header before sending a text.  Simple. Obvious.  But easy, actually, to forget.  Which I did on two more occasions.  Luckily, these went to my daughter, who found them funny.  Then I did the reverse faux pas – sending a text intended for my new lady friend to my ex-.  That provoked a response almost as discomforting as my initial misdirected transmission. The bottom line is that I am now paranoid.  I send fewer texts.  And I am ultra-careful in checking the recipient.  I know, however, that it is only a matter of time before I screw up again.  Texting, even when typing as slowly as I do, often becomes a rapid-fire form of dialog.  A message comes in and you assume it’s part of the thread you’ve been engaged in for the last five minutes.  But it is not.  And so the next message goes astray.  And all hell breaks loose. I accept that user stupidity is the root cause of this problem.  But is there not an argument to be made for an idiot-alert similar to what we build into our “delete” routines: “Are you SURE you want to send THIS message to THIS person?”  Now that would be a usability enhancement welcomed by every stupid user around the world.  Because I am pretty sure I’m not the only one.

-Anonymous Usability Sciences Employee

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