What do users really want?

Some weeks ago I was working for a customer, giving Lotus Notes/Domino consulting services.

We were just chatting about their new ERP system based on Java (J2EE for business logic) and iSeries was used as the datastore.

The user interface on the client (web browser) was really up-to-date, gorgeous, with some Ajax-style functions.

I dared to ask him: "I guess everyone in the company is happy with the new system..."

He sincerely replied: "Unfortunately no! The feedback is not so good... Users don't give a sh** about web browsers, Ajax, sw architectures and so on... "

And me: "So what's wrong with the new sw?!"

He answered: "The lack of use of Function keys! (you remember F1, F2,...) . Their productivity just fell down because using the mouse is TOO SLOW for them. They love the keyboard, especially function keys, because they can enter much more orders than using a 'modern' mouse".

As for me, I really like new technologies, new buzz words, new ways to do old things... ;-)
but I also realize that many times IT people forget the golden rule:
"Don't forget to listen to your users, taking care about their told/untold needs".

By the way, today another IT manager gave me some directions about a new software I'm developing:
"Le's use that X font and that Y font size because the users are used to it on another system. The search engine must be very similar to the one available on the ERP system (AS/400)".

At first I was a little bit disappointed for those requests, but then I realized that he was right: users must "feel at home" when they use new software.

The software I'm working on is NOT my personal toy, it will be an important working tool for many users ;-)


Anonymous said...

If all we cared about was users' "comfort," we'd still be using paper and pencils. No one ever came out of the womb knowing only Netscape and Word 6.

Unknown said...

My post it's not on "users's comfort", it's about pratical user interface design.

My software could be very good, very smart on the server side, but it also need a good user interface: if not, your users will hate your system, no matter how "dishy" it is for the technical side.

By the way, the wheel invention is important because it helped the "users" to get the work done and with less strength ;-)