Thursday, September 27, 2012


I was sitting in a conference room last week with the IT Den Mother (also known as the Executive Assistant to the mucky muck) waiting for the mobile video teleconferencing unit to be wheeled in for a meeting.

I was trying to cancel one night of a two night reservation for a contractor we have coming in.  I couldn't do it - so I called up the reservation desk of the hotel.  The reservationist was using the same system and she couldn't do it either.  Something that would have taken 5 minutes with a well placed phone call before now took 30 - and still had to be done by hand.  Why do software designers design in pieces?  Why can't they just make it easy for me to go through a process?

I ask myself this with almost every application I train. 
It's actually one of the most important pieces of my job - translate the individual pieces of the application (many of which were designed and coded by teams that don't talk to each other) into something resembling a workflow.

It's the piecemeal cobbling together of different bits of code from different teams (and possibly different companies as organizations merge or get eaten) that create the little quirks that make a number of applications so hard to use.

  • Search in this field using this technique
  • Search in that field using this other technique
  • Use tabs and drop-down menus to navigate in this section
  • Use left hand menus and separate pages to navigate in another section
  • Use the standard model for navigating the application - unless you are trying to do this special, but super-important, thing that requires an entirely different workflow.
This next year - I am on a couple of projects that promise to change the way the University does things.
Big strategic and cultural change projects.

I'm going to have to be the IT Den Mother's voice.

How can we make it easy for the folks we work with to do what they need to do?

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