Friday, July 03, 2009

Think from the user's perspective...

I am a regular follower of Hugh McLeod and his unique picture blog at GapingVoid. This particular cartoon by Hugh caught my attention a few days ago and I was constantly thinking about how true it is with regard to the work we (I) do.


Gaping Void Cartoon: it's not what the software does...
We write a lot of code for a lot of projects.. we build lots of pages that hundreds and thousands of people will look at and interact with every day.

Most of the time we are engrossed in thinking about stuff like what the code looks like, if the data is coming from the database, are we able to navigate the pages, etc.

However, a project is not all about what the software can do.. it’s about what the user can do with the software!

How many times do we actually think about how the user would feel, think and react, looking at our page for the first (and maybe even after the first) time?

We execute all our test cases perfectly, click what needs to be clicked, enter just the right data that needs to be entered.. because we know what to do.
We know what data the code accepts, and what needs to be done after what, because we designed and coded the application.

How about the user then?
  • Have we given him enough information to know what to do?
  • Is our page easy to understand, and the flow of elements in the right order?
  • Have we allowed him to enter only the right kind of data, in the right place, at the right time?
  • Have we prevented him from doing something he should not?
In other words, did we put ourselves in the user’s shoes while testing it?

These are some of the things we need to ask ourselves when writing any software that is meant to be exposed to a large audience.

It takes a little effort to think about and understand something we know so well from a layman’s perspective. But that little effort will lead to great improvement in the quality and usability of the software we develop.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I already made the choice - Now I am trying to understand it

 

Chin-kun [12:51 PM]:

The choice is already made

now I need to understand why I made that choice

Toyoyo [12:51 PM]:

 What if you understand that your choice was wrong? Can you change your choice?

Chin-kun [12:51 PM]:

The choice can never be wrong or right

its just a path

how we understand it can be right or wrong

Toyoyo [12:51 PM]:

 Hahaha

 Thats the most preposterous thing I've heard today. :)

Chin-kun [12:52 PM]:

 preposterous?

 why?

Toyoyo [12:52 PM]:

 Because if you already made your choice, then why do you need to understand it if you can't change it anyway?

Chin-kun [12:53 PM]:

 hmm.. well you need to understand why you made that choice. dont you

 thats when u will execute it

Toyoyo [12:53 PM]:

 What if I don't try to understand?

Chin-kun [12:53 PM]:

 You will have to eventually

 even if you dont try to

Toyoyo [12:54 PM]:

 What if I am absolutely adamant?

Chin-kun [12:54 PM]:

 You cant be.. you have already made a choice that you want to understand it

Toyoyo [12:54 PM]:

 Edchinav

Chin-kun [12:54 PM]:

 nee moham

 its as clear as u want it be

 again the choice is made.. you have to understand why you made it

 here also.. you made a choice not to try to understand the concept

 now why you have made it.. because you dont want to believe it

Toyoyo [12:55 PM]:

 So life is all about trying to understand why we are living, rather than living itself?

Chin-kun [12:55 PM]:

 as if sans the so called rational path which you are accustomed to

 thats what you have been doing since pat 24 yrs right?

 past*

 trying to reason out and understand why things happen the way they happen

Toyoyo [12:56 PM]:

 Then what about Neo's statement about fate? That he likes to make his own future?

 Does that mean you have no say in what happens to you?

 You cannot influence your life in any way?

Chin-kun [12:57 PM]:

 nope

 it dosnt

 nope

 its the choice you make

 no one else makes it

 only that you make it before you actually think you do

Toyoyo [12:57 PM]:

 Then you're just a puppet dancing on a stage.. with no idea what you are doing and why you are doing it..

Chin-kun [12:58 PM]:

 every action leads to another action

 every choice leads to another choice

Toyoyo [12:58 PM]:

 A choice which you have no idea you made, but you apparently made it anyway.

 Which can mean that you didn't make the choice, you were made to make that choice.

Chin-kun [12:59 PM]:

 Nope..

 you make choices..

 and u only make them

Toyoyo [12:59 PM]:

 If I did have that power, why can't I change my choice?

Chin-kun [12:59 PM]:

 how can u undo past?

 u have already made a choice.. its over

 how can u undo it?

Toyoyo [1:00 PM]:

 What use is there in making a choice without understanding it before making it?

Chin-kun [1:00 PM]:

 thats the beauty of life!

 thats where uncertainity and godliness is thrown in

 if u knew all ur future..

 whats the whole purpose

 you have already made your choices..

 when time comes u just try to understand them

Toyoyo [1:01 PM]:

 I dont say I want to know my future. I only say I want to be able to make the path that leads to it.

Chin-kun [1:01 PM]:

 Today coming to office or not

 is not something which u decided today

Toyoyo [1:01 PM]:

 And to make that choice in all consciousness

Chin-kun [1:02 PM]:

 its already decided earlier

 looks at it this way

 your coming today to office has n number of external reasons..

 + internal reasons

 same goes for not coming

 have all the reasons come now?

 nope

 they started probably a day ago, a week ago, a decade ago or a century ago

 so the choice of u going to office or not has been made earlier..

 by u

 but now u understand them.. thats all

Toyoyo [1:05 PM]:

 Simply putting, life is a sequence of choices we don't understand until after we make them, which influence what choices we will have to make in the future, which we don't understand either. In other words, you are living in a world where nothing happens as you want it to happen, at least not because you want it. If something does happen as you wanted it, its because you chose unknowingly a path which lead to that outcome, which is pure chance.

Chin-kun [1:11 PM]:

 Right

 Sivagna lenidhe chima aina kadaladhu ani

 uttiga anale

 but twist in the story happen

 if u make a right choice now.. that is follow the path of righteousness.. you will end up with the correct path

Toyoyo [1:13 PM]:

 Ok, now, make the choice.. are we having lunch or not?

Chin-kun [1:13 PM]:

 We already made that choice..

 we now have to understand why we made it

 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Windows 7 Beta - First Impressions

Its finally here!

Struggling with my low bandwidth and frequent power cuts, I finally managed to download and install one of the most talked about releases of Microsoft’s operating system: Windows 7 Beta!

image
In one sentence: I like it!

Its cooler than Vista in many regards. Be it the new and improved Aero effects, the desktop peek feature, the new and improved taskbar or the new “jumplists”, it simply makes Vista seem old already. Believe me, even though I haven’t used Vista for long, I still feel this is the Vista that Microsoft should have released in the first place!

The installation didn’t take too long.. just around 25 minutes to finish a fresh install on my dad’s HP Pavilion dv6000 series laptop. I made it a dual boot along with Windows Vista Home Premium, which came preinstalled with the laptop. After that, installing drivers and software was a breeze.. all the drivers that came with the Vista installation worked without a hitch here too.

As soon as that was over, the new “Action Center” kicked in, warning me that my PC was not protected against viruses and attacks. When I clicked on it, it gave me the option to install Norton 360, Kaspersky’s new tech preview or AVG. I chose Norton 360, and it was installed within minutes. The trial period will end in 15 days (after which I will go back to my favourite Avast antivirus :P ).

image

Two of the most noticeable features are the new Libraries in place of the traditional My Documents subfolders, and the new taskbar. Libraries provide a consolidated view of the files on your computer, rather than showing them as simple files and folders. For example, the Pictures library shows you all the pictures from your configured locations in a single view. You can search within the libraries, move things around and play with them. The Music library in this view is shared with Windows Media Player, so what you see here is what you get there!

image

The new taskbar warrants a whole blog post for itself. Its just simple and easier to use than what we have been seeing this far. Multiple windows of the same application show up as a single icon on the taskbar. When you hover on that icon, you see previews of all the windows for that application. Even tabs in Internet Explorer show up this way. You can pin application icons to the taskbar to use as quick shortcuts, something like the QuickLaunch bar of older versions.

image

Windows Media player is also a part of this toolbar, and you can control playback right from the preview window that pops up when you hover over the icon.

And here below we have the before and after pictures of the Desktop Peek feature. It allows you to get a glimpse of the desktop and the gadgets (oh, I didn’t talk about those!) there without actually minimizing all the windows. Simple.. it just makes all of the windows transparent!

Peek-Before Peek-After

Well, I could go on, but there are other experts who have done a more serious and in-depth review of this OS. This is just my personal experience of using it for one day. (And I already got used to it :) )

If you want to try it out too, you can get your hands dirty at the Windows 7 Beta Download page.
I’m looking forward to 6 months of experimentation!