Everyday Computing, Features, Technology

The Eyes Of The Beholder

By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant
By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant

DO you have a good eye for spotting mistakes when reading documents? If you do, then you should be proud to be one of those fortunate people who can effectively proof-read documents, commanding any mistakes to “jump off the page” and be noticed with seemingly little effort.

That is an amazingly valuable skill which is especially useful when checking literary works before publication. If your talent extends to proof-reading your own work with the same ease, then you deserve extra kudos. Other mere mortals have to contend with the reality of their own eyes deceptively glossing over the actual mistakes, filling-in the blanks in that annoying manner which causes several iterations of proof-reading to be necessary.

The same effect can be noticed when evaluating user interfaces, administrative processes, and computer systems in general. It manifests when frequent users will (resignedly) jump through the hoops of an otherwise unremarkable system, eventually not noticing the jagged edges. In contrast, a fresh pair of eyes will quickly notice these unusual or undesirable elements.

For example, I recently observed a teacher who was using a Ministry-issued laptop computer, from the same batch issued to secondary school students. It was interesting to observe the interaction of the teacher as that new laptop was booted-up. After the usual excitement of watching a new computer being booted-up, there was a noticeable air of bewilderment when the process was completed. Unfortunately, the brand new device was not as user-friendly as it could — or should — have been. In some respects, the poor attention to the details of the user interface made that new computer seem user-hostile! Probably not what the designers would have had in mind.

Unfortunately, such experiences are not rare, and not even confined to electronic technology. The simple act of completing a paper form can hint at the level of attention given to the design of that form. At our ports of entry, the increasing numbers of travellers are required to complete a Declaration for Immigration/Customs purposes. Even such a frequently-used document contains some sections that need to be reviewed, to be completely fit for purpose!

There are other items under our very eyes that are also in need of review. If you need to assess or critically evaluate a piece of technology, then exercise caution and be prepared to question your own opinions. Either that, or risk being blinded by your own bias. Beware the eye of the beholder.

Please continue to share your views on these article. Contact the author at: www.datashore.net or via THE VOICE.

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