I chose a vending machine as my device to watch, but my job lends more to the discussion in these books, so I chose to discuss my experience teaching computers.
In the design of everyday things, my takeaway is that the more a device does, the more intricate it’s controls and the greater chance there is to confuse the user. Hence, the challenge of good design.
I work with mostly people over 50 whom are doing something they haven’t done in awhile- learning something new. When working with a new customer, my most common request upon opening their new iPad is “where’s the manual?” which is almost always followed by a rant about “how ridiculous it is that this thing doesn’t come with a manual” because “how am I supposed to learn how to use it?” What if these people are right? Besides the physical artifact, a printed manual offers a linear and complete learning process – one that omits the fear involved in trial and error. It is trusted. It’s the manual that helps make the mind map, for some users, not the item itself. So, should we ignore these people’s requests? What is today’s equivalent to a manual? ((A big improvement to this problem came when the iOS5 came to the iPad. Pressing either of the two buttons turned on the screen, and a sequence of questions about how the user would like the iPad to work followed.)) To me, this was not about the courtesy of asking the user if they would like to use Siri or find my iPad, but rather letting the user Know That The Feature exists. ( in a very acceptable passive way. ) This has turned an interaction with the device into something more familiar to people who are more “textbook learners.”
Another opposing observation are the “pop up killers.” These users dismiss everything in front of them until they see something that looks relevant. They don’t read what is there, they just hit next. The entire interface I described above is lost on these people. Which makes me think about the other reading…
Emotional Anxiety and the user’s ability to move forward when they don’t know-
In Emotional Design, It made me think about how an individuals visceral or reflective reactions have a snowball effect. When I observe someone making a mistake on the computer, the reaction goes in one of two ways- they either stop completely take their hands off the computer and stare deeply into the screen as if they are looking at nothing and everything at the same time OR, more strangely, they start moving faster- as if speed would have some effect on fixing it ( like they were able to catch the spilled milk in the air.) They tap on every button imaginable without reading what it does- especially the close window buttons or the blue “suggested choice” buttons. They are either over thinking or mindlessly reacting. It’s only when they see what they want, or at least the end in sight, they immediately relax and become receptive.
If only computers were smart enough to send feedback not only to let the user know that the computer either accomplished or did not accomplish a task, but also feedback about how the user’s emotion is causing them to get closer or farther away from their intended goal.