Friday, September 19, 2008

Usability and Hitopadesa

User experience is one of those greatly overused and little understood technology cliches. When I hear usuabilty experts fold forth, I am often reminded of a story from Hitopadesa - The Tale of a Brahmin and Three Rouges in which brahmin is parted from his goat in three easy steps with the moral being you cannot please everyone and to trust oneself. The brahmin in the story could be the entity who concieves the product, the goat which is mistaken to be a dog is the product itself and the three rouges stand for the many kinds of users the creator of the product tries to please in vain. 

Just as the brahmin and his goat part ways, so do the intent and concept from the product. Some users will be pleased and others won't - there is always a fourth and a sixth rouge who does not agree with the rest of them. Instead it would be nice to see an user interfaces adapt to the preferences of the user unintrusively, become this comfortable old shoe that you always find yourself slipping into. 

Users and usability tests are equally blindsided by not knowing what they don't know at the time of their initial interactions with the product. To that end, what appears a decent experience at first may in time feel inadequate. Another point that is not emphasised enough in usability discussions is that user experience is not limited to usuability is is the whole series of experiences a user or customer has while interacting with a company or its product.

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