Re: Definition of "User-Friendly" Was Re: Engineering design practice

Subject: Re: Definition of "User-Friendly" Was Re: Engineering design practice
From: slb -at- westnet -dot- com -dot- au
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 21 Apr 2005 10:40:17 -0600

> I am curious; how do you define user-friendly?

I don't find it a useful term. I don't want to be befriended
by software, I want to use it to get things done. Good
documentation helps me get things done, helps me understand
how I might get them done better/faster/cheaper, helps me
when I have a problem I can't solve by myself. Helps me work
more efficiently and effectively in the next ten seconds and
six months from now.

I like user-centred design. That implies a product that allows
me to do what I want to do and as much as possible lets me work
my way and think my way, instead of forcing me to see things as
the developers see them.

When I deal with a clerk at a bank, government office, help desk,
etc, I hope for competent, efficient, professional, courteous.
Friendly is very much an optional extra. I feel the same way
about software, gadgets, documentation.

> User friendly documentation is, in the main,
> documentation that minimizes the reader having to do
> skips and jump-to's.

I disagree. To give one example, you could minimise "skips
and jump-to's" by combining concepts, definitions and
procedures into one long topic. But that means I need to
plough through the lot every time. In this case I'd rather
skip to the concepts/overview topic or the glossary when
required (first time through and maybe as an occasional
refresher), but most of the time just deal with the bare

> There is really
> only one approach to creating such documentation:

I disagree with this too.

> Design highly cohesive and loosely coupled modules
> of information.

I'm a big fan of highly cohesive and loosely coupled modules.
We agree on something!

> And creation of such modules requires
> good engineering design practice.

If good engineering design practice = DFDs, then I'm
back to disagreeing (sigh).


Stuart Burnfield


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