Archives for posts with tag: Usability

I use Google Chrome for my web access. I use it on my Mac laptop.

Sometimes I’m just browsing. Most of the time I’m working. Sometimes I’m doing highly repetitive things like making small changes to web site text pages, via a content management system (CMS).

It’s the small things that make the difference when it comes to usability. I really like the circular timer thingy on a chrome browser tab. It’s so simple, and yet so communicative, instructive. When you do a ‘send’ like clicking a link or submitting something the circular thingy goes one way, and then when you start to ‘receive’ like getting a new page back or updating the page, the circular thingy goes the other way. When the browser fully delivers the page, the thingy disappears and the tab favicon comes back. I see the process every time I compose and update this post.

It’s not in the middle of the screen, obscuring your view and your productivity, like the pinwheel of death. It’s up in the browser tab.

This is great when you’re doing lots of updates, because as soon as you see the circular thingy reverse its direction you know you can switch to another tab, saving lots and lots of milliseconds, which add up over time and really help you out.

Well thought out, simple and illuminating. Marvellous, magical usability.

I was staying at my Mum’s the other day and she was complaining about her rather flaky digital TV service. She maintains a pathological avoidance of all things Murdochian, so has never embraced the world of Sky. For her broadband and TV, therefore, she’s opted for Virgin Interactive.

The broadband seems to be very reliable. I’m round at hers and it always seems extremely reliable. Less so the TV, however. The Virgin Interactive isn’t very interactive. It’s rather interinactive.

The system navigation is crude and clumsy. The operating system is slow to the point of Windowsian. The catch up and on demand functions fail regularly, and don’t get fixed by a restart of both the television and the Virgin unit. When you call customer service at unsociable hours you get an automated service advising you to un-plug and restart…

The remote is hard to fathom and clunky, meaning you mis-navigate frequently. I couldn’t get it to work and I’m relatively tech savvy. My Mum of a generation further removed from tech savviness, so for her the usability is key and the frustration palpable.

This is rather unsatisfactory and disappointing for a company that prides – and prices – itself on customer service and is headed up by one of the world’s most respected and inspirational entrepreneurs.

When you boil everything down to the lowest common denominator, stuff has to work and be simple to operate. And when there are no or few viable alternatives, the incumbents can afford to be lazy and take liberties with the consumer.