What *is* user-friendly...

Subject: What *is* user-friendly...
From: "Larry Kunz ((919) 254-6395)" <ldkunz -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996 15:29:04 EST

WandaJane Phillips <wandajp -at- ANDYNE -dot- ON -dot- CA> asked which of the
following better defines "user-friendly" (I'm paraphrasing):

- Clear, concise; focused on what the user wants to accomplish;
information is accessible.

- Friendly, more colloquial; graphical objects (like "big disks
that look like people") used to guide the reader.

Like WandaJane, I prefer the first option. "Chummy" documents,
unless they match my knowledge level perfectly and have exactly
the information I need, usually strike me as condescending if
not downright annoying.

I wonder if a generational factor is at work here. Of course there
are exceptions, but perhaps we "boomers" (defined, at least in the
U.S., as anyone who can remember where they were when JFK was shot),
who learned primarily from books and had to overcome technophobia,
tend to prefer the first approach. Younger people, who learned
from Sesame Street and have always felt perfectly comfortable with
computers, opt for the more graphical, "chummy" approach.

Is there a single right answer? Of course not. User-friendliness
is in the eye of the beholder. But if you're writing information
that's targeted to one age group or the other, this distinction might
prove useful.

(Now, if WandaJean were to tell me she's 25 years old and her friend
is 50, that would send my little theory right out the window. :-)

Larry Kunz
STC Assistant to the President for Professional Development
ldkunz -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com

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