sexta-feira, 24 de abril de 2009

Microsoft Surface: basic usability problems

I guess most of us are familiar with Microsoft Surface. It was very discussed when it appeared. But, at least here in Brasil, I’ve never seen one, and I don’t even know anybody who had used it. So, it’s hard to tell if it’s really as ‘cool’ as it seems.

This article by Gordon Miller reminds us how simple usability issues can be forgotten, even when we are talking about a huge company like Microsoft (hum…or maybe precisely because we are talking about MS?).

It reminds me also of a project in which I’ve been involved some years ago, that, among other things, aimed to grant access to computers for people with low income. One of the major concerns was about making the experience of using the computer as simple as possible, having in mind that for many users it could be the first time they ever would use a computer. This included even anticipating problems like “how do I turn this thing on?”, or “what is a ‘mouse’? how do I use it?”, “is the sound working?” etc. From turning on the computer to accessing the Internet and using a webmail, we tried to cover the whole points of using the computer. We conducted usability tests and had some interesting results. We printed a quick-guide, to help people to connect the components and turn on the computer, and to connect it to the Internet. And those were the times of dial-up access…

I’m not saying we had a huge success in all of these points. In fact, this was one of those long stories about how projects you’re involved with are taken from you, and I couldn’t see the results when the project finally got to the market. But it’s funny to see how basic usability issues can be forgotten, even when we’re talking about a product like Microsoft Surface.

This post from Gordon Miller is a fine example. If a group of smart guys, very familiar with technology, couldn’t find out how to turn the thing on, how Microsoft expect the regular customer will be able to do it?

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