Usability Woes

had an experience today at the mall that really reminded me how important usability is.

a lady was at the hardware shop frantically asking around for help on how to use her samsung phone. she was trying to figure out why her input method had switched to a symbol/number keyboard and was trying to switch it back to the QWERTY keyboard.

seeing a young looking dude (me), she prods me and asks for help after exhausting her options with the cashier and assistant at the hardware store.

and so, presented with the  phone and the different buttons, i got hit by a usability nightmare. on first glance, none of the buttons instantly seemed to hint toward a change of keyboard. after fiddling with plausible buttons (“1/2” button gave me the next keyboard of symbols, the “T” button gave some symbol selection, and the “V” button closed the keyboard)  for a while, i still drew a blank. so that’s two strikes.

my dad, a seasoned samsung user suggested going to settings to see if something needed to be toggled, which to me completely didn’t make sense since such a toggle function probably required heavy usage.

i tried long pressing, double pressing. nope.

apologetically, i returned the phone to the hapless woman, to which she commented “oh no.. i always get this problem. i’m just not smart enough for a smart phone”

le sigh. i felt like telling her it was the fault of the UX designer at samsung. and truthfully it is. things are ultimately meant to be usable for the average customer. any such complaints just speaks of poor design. yet another reason why i refuse to switch from apple to samsung.

but i realised the way i tinkered with the phone also shows how we humans normally react to a novel situation of usage.

(1) Look for intuitive clues. Things that close ought to have a “x” button, things that can drag out have a handle in the desired pull-out direction etc..

(2) If intuition fails, fiddle around with plausible options. The trial and error should not heavily penalise the user, i.e. it should be easy to return to the same screen, reverse the effects of the button press (hopefully by pressing the same button)

(3) Indications – if a button is pressed, show it so. If the keyboard is in some mode, show it! Indicators also work well as toggle buttons.

(4) If all else fails, and USERS shouldn’t get to this step.. they go to settings and hope for the best. But really, settings should be used for one-time off functionalities and changing of settings.

Usability is so important. honestly. samsung has so many functionalities and capabilities ahead of apple. but i refuse to change, just because using it frustrates me and i refuse to go on that learning curve.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s