You are on page 1of 14

10 things that make software user-friendly - TechRepublic


Search TechRepublic


10 things that make software user-friendly

A product that's difficult to figure out, inefficient to use, or poorly supported is not going
to win much of a user base. See whether you agree with these criteria for userfriendliness.

By Jack Wallen

in 10 Things,
September 15, 2010, 4:22 AM PST

Power through our confidential survey for the
opportunity to put one of three $100 USD
Amazon gift cards* in your pocket. Would you
like to be our resource for opinions?

Contact us about this survey.
 *Please see contest terms and conditions for details.



Lately, I have touched a nerve with a few

TechRepublic readers regarding the issue of
user-friendliness — specifically, user-friendliness[11/4/2015 4:50:53 PM]

You’ll learn how to meet the needs of your dev teams faster and manage your dev-test environments with more visibility and control. Of course. matter whether it's an operating system or a single-client user application. we’ll connect you with experts who’ll demonstrate the capabilities of Azure and answer your questions. an application's update process should be easy.TechRepublic surrounding the Linux operating system. In our webinar series. memory DOWNLOAD NOW leaks. This can often leave behind a trail of bad results. 1: Simple to install This applies to everything from operating systems to browser plug-ins. the software becomes less and http://www. proprietary inhouse application. If updates are complex. and other by LogMeIn Five Best Practices to Optimise Sales Revenue FIND OUT MORE As with the installation. end-user[11/4/2015 4:50:53 PM] DOWNLOAD NOW . as White Papers // From Citrix Systems Advance Your Tech Career in One Simple Step many updates patch security holes. Installation is the first point of contact for users. Otherwise. they're going to be jaded the second they begin using your tool. Userfriendliness can be applied to every operating system. But what makes an application user-friendly? Here are10 criteria by which you should be judging everything you roll out to your end users. as well as anything you might be using yourself. It doesn't WHITE PAPERS. this debate isn't limited to Linux.techrepublic. WEBCASTS. Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.10 things that make software user-friendly . When users don't update. The REGISTER NOW second the installation becomes complicated. thus exposing issues. AND DOWNLOADS White Papers // From Microsoft Dev-test starts with IT IT pros and developers need the infrastructure to design. so it had better be a friendly process. develop. Updates need to be simple enough to ensure that users continue to White Papers // From Microsoft benefit from the hard work of the creators of the Gartner Research: The Top 10 Cloud Myths software. users will more than likely skip the process. the installation Register for a webinar (or two or three) should be simple and well documented. and more. “Dev-Test Starts with IT”. users will bail and move on to something easier. 2: Easy to update White Papers // From join. test and deliver high-quality applications at a competitive pace.

5: Pleasant. If the GUI is not well thought out and well executed. nor should it set up any roadblocks for users. It should be optimized for specific architecture. and it should work seamlessly with underlying structures and subsystems. The efficiency of a piece of software is tied up with its intuitiveness.techrepublic. easy-to-navigate GUI You might be[11/4/2015 4:50:53 PM] . the software should be an efficient means to completing their jobs. But don't bank all your hope on a good GUI — the software still needs to work as expected! 4: Effcient Not only should a piece of software work as expected. This was an inefficient (and inefficiently executed) design choice. people will have issues with using the product." However. Switching from the standard interface to the Ribbon interface caused end users to waste precious work time simply trying to figure out where features were located. 3: Intuitive Software is only as good as its GUI. it should have all memory leaks plugged.TechRepublic less reliable and secure (as well as missing out on new features). From the users' point of view. "The Microsoft Office Ribbon Interface is horribly NOT intuitive. A welldesigned GUI can often overcome a less-thanfriendly underlying structure (or poor coding). it should also be efficient. the look and feel of a GUI is a slippery slope that http://www. but it certainly is pleasant looking. Software should not get in the way of completing a task.10 things that make software user-friendly . A good example is the change Microsoft made to the Office interface.

. But if your edgy design is counterintuitive and inefficient. that software becomes[11/4/2015 4:50:53 PM] . Live Webinar: 45 Minutes to a New Disaster Recovery Strategy Cloud Services Provider. Macquarie Telecom. and IT Service Provider Zerto. The tried-and-true drop- Editor's Daily Picks SUBSCRIBE Subscribe Week in Review SUBSCRIBE Subscribe down menu design has worked for years but is long overdue for an update — but this update should not come at the expense of intuitiveness. 6: Easy to remove Along with being easy to install and use.10 things that make software user-friendly . add your own take on what is proven. it fails the user-friendliness test. A GUI's primary purpose is to make an end user's job easier. Don't make that impression a negative one. a piece of software should be easy to remove. And cumbersome is not userfriendly. As much as developers don't want their users to remove their software. and little more. Instead of going with trends. When a designer opts to go with trends instead of what works. If that can be achieved with an edgier design. Without a simple removal process. it makes for an unpleasant experience for the end Don't Miss Our Latest Updates user. the removal process might be the last impression your software makes. go for it.TechRepublic designers tend to tumble down.. have come together to do a deep-dive on the importance of having a recovery plan in case disaster strikes Sponsored by Macquarie Telecom http://www.techrepublic.

and other protectionbased tools. Microsoft has practically shunned the world of http://www. In[11/4/2015 4:50:53 PM] . If the software offers nothing in the way of troubleshooting. as it creates levels of complication that most average end users can't deal with.techrepublic. Problems begin to arise when developers do not adhere to standards. But again. you can always run it from the command line to see some of the issues presented. it's important that the end user can call support and that support can resolve the issue. anti-spyware. There are also third-party tools that can be used. your computer is vulnerable to whatever the malevolent powers that be want to throw at you. And when something goes wrong with a piece of software. This third-party software comes in the form of antivirus.10 things that make software user-friendly . depending upon a third-party debugging tool is not user-friendly. This has never been so obvious than with Microsoft Office. This is not userfriendly. Without these tools. how is the end user or the administrator going to be able to keep the software running? Windows 7 attempts to help the user out when a program crashes and does a fairly good job with it.TechRepublic 7: Doesn't need third-party software One of my biggest problems with the Windows operating system is that more often than not. 8: Easy to troubleshoot No software is perfect. it requires third-party software to keep it running. if you have problems with an application. 9: Adheres to standards Standards are created for a reason — to make interconnectivity between applications or hardware easy.

When a program runs into an error and simply bails without warning or recourse. OpenOffice is one office suite that does follow standards. When users are affected by a lack of compliance to standards. but giving them the option to report bugs can go a long way toward helping that software improve. This causes issues with other applications communicating with its software. users are left with their eyes bugged out and their hands in the air. 10: Effective error handling What happens when a piece of software encounters an error? Does it just go away without warning? Does it try to rectify the issue? Does it simply time out and then go on about its business? When a program comes across an error. It's not the end users' responsibility to report bugs. it should make the error[11/4/2015 4:50:53 PM] . they'll face an unfriendly experience trying to get their tools to communicate with tools that do follow standards.TechRepublic universal standards in favor of its own standards. but it often suffers because Microsoft doesn't comply with standards set by governing bodies. http://www. At least let users know there was a problem and what they can do to help solve it — such as sending a bug report to the developers. How do you defne user friendly? Do these criteria fulfill your idea of what makes for a user-friendly software experience? If not.techrepublic.10 things that make software user-friendly . what would you remove or add to this list? Share your thoughts with your fellow TechRepublic readers. at least to the developers.

For more news about Jack Wallen.10 things that make software user-friendly .techrepublic.TechRepublic 0 2 About Jack Wallen Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux. visit his website He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android[11/4/2015 4:50:53 PM] . Full Bio // Contact // See all of Jack's content // // jlwallen

and also most ignored . Web apps should allow you to go back easy and effortlessly. Like Excelmann Reply Sep 22. However. 2010 This list is accurate and should be read and absorbed by every developer in the world.[11/4/2015 4:50:53 PM] . There is no reason I should ever have to use the pointing device unless I choose. intuitive. What is very important (and what seems to be missing from much documentation) is the documentation also needs to explain why one would want to use the features and how any feature interacts with other features.10 things that make software user-friendly . the 5 MOST IMPORTANT .. Like john3347 Reply Sep 20. and INTUITIVE! One step should logically and intuitively lead to the http://www. intuitive. Newest | Oldest | Top Comments Alchemist-Joat Sep 22.techrepublic.not in a fits & starts mode of constantly having to go to the pointing device. Of these items. 2010 Intuitive is great.are intuitive.TechRepublic 56 comments 2 people following LOG IN   + Follow Conversation Also post to Share   POST COMMENT AS. intuitive. there needs to be documentation. 2010 1. I can use my keyboard to navigate the entire app as well as execute any and all commands-.. Of course this documentation needs to explain the features and how to use them.

750 GB for under $100 (prices sure have come down.10 things that make software user-friendly ." (or words to that effect) Login took 10 minutes. b) the drivers weren't in the location specified. Insufficient system resources to complete the requested action. WD! edit: ) Like Reply http://www.techrepublic. I'll have enough free space on a couple of other drives (and the time) to empty the new one. the next step is [pre]dd.. by that time.mbr of=\\? \Device\Harddisk2\Partition0[/pre] Take that. fired up CCleaner. I got an error: "We are unable to load your profile. c) installing the drivers also installed a startup app. I finally found a way to turn off the virtual CD. One of these days.exe if=empty_dos_table. and everything was fine. and. I connected it to my PC the same way I have connected all the other external USB drives I have.that broke Windows. Thought about it.TechRepublic next and the user must not need to rely solely on memory to know how to "find" whatever they are looking for or wishing to perform within any application. I had already copied over 100GB onto the new drive. checked the startup keys. a WD My Passport SE. Like kishorebarik26 Reply Sep 20. because WD has a virtual CD on the drive that wants to manage it for me. I do. and am suddenly faced with Windows' New Hardware Wizard. 2010 I just purchased a new USB hard drive. Once I have an empty[11/4/2015 4:50:53 PM] . but that's another discussion). Developers quickly lose sight of their audience when they begin to write applications aimed at impressing the user with how smart the developer is. When I rebooted. But. rebooted.exe if=/dev/zero of=\\? \Device\Harddisk2\Partition0 bs=1M --progress[/pre] followed immediately by [pre]dd. but that stinkin' partition is still on the drive and I want it gone. You have been logged in to the default profile. WTF? I need to install drivers? Yes.. killed the new app. instead of making the application intuitive and easy to learn and use. 2010 Nice Idea Like NickNielsen Reply Sep 18. What's with this? I bought a storage device! I don't need it to manage my backups or anything else! All I wanted it for was to archive some older (larger) files! The most user unfriendly part came as part of the driver installation: a) the instructions for installing the drivers gave a procedure that couldn't be followed.

Developers have to be open minded. NO ADDED SPYWARE. and its really hard to find commands in this new "intuitive" interface for the old users. microsoft has created some called "standards". We all think differently.portman Reply Sep 16. 2010 11. ultimately. We have different ways of accomplishing the same thing differently. we must have other sets of eyes help troubleshooting and play around our GUI. platform independent is also[11/4/2015 4:50:53 PM] . The more feedback we get the better GUI product we are going to have. if a particular software is made for a particular task. and now it has opted off from those "standards" by implementing the new feature called "ribbon" in the new ms office suits. this means you too. It has to be easy to install and update. response time should also b considered. After all. People are amazed when I clear up the startup mess and they find out their new computer really is fast. Ask if I want a desktop icon and keep it where I want it.techrepublic. Cross platform-ability. Stays out of the system tray.TechRepublic nikunjbhatt84 Sep 17. I agree with one of the comments that intuitive and user friendliness in the eyes of the beholder. Adobe and QuickTime. To keep in mind all the time is that GUI is designed to make the user's job easier. Like prugsa. I use http://www. therefore it is very important before releasing the product. so. i have also used linux and it had provided much richer user interface than windows 7 before almost 8 yrs of window 7 release. if the user is not satisfied with your designed interface. is of no use. Like a.10 things that make software user-friendly . 2010 the 7th point: Doesn?t need third-party software. HP. photoshop r the big programs which r resource hog and therefore slow. weather it is more intuitive and easy-to-use. 14. visual studio.kilgore Reply Sep 17. your work. the developer can not provide facility to protect the software from malwares. 13. once the product released customers will be the one who uses it not us. seems awkward. 2010 Well written assessment. 12. It has to be intuitive for users to use and navigate from one screen/task to the other. nero. it is the user's responsibility to keep their devices and OS malware free by anyway. shouldnt they provide backward compatibility (menu)? sometimes i have to design according to the user/client's preference rather than implementing easy-to-use-for-users because they are already familiar with the old interface and they dont want to WASTE their time to learn new interface.

They can't bundle them with the OS because of the whole Antitrust ruling but they make them easily available. 2010 Number 9: "Microsoft doesn?t comply with standards set by governing bodies" . Like gscratchley Reply Sep 16. keep the GUI consistent so that when the user learns to enter data in one form. I couldn't agree more. 16. #13 source code availability (open source) #14 price Like brendan Reply Sep 16. smartphone and Linux. First. The comfort level goes WAY up when they can look at the next page and say. http://www. And here's two things to add to the list. Your bio say it all. 2010 I would also add #11 portability #12 web site and forum supporting the code. Microsoft actually offers free versions of all those programs itself. web. 2010 as a former collegue used to say "'friendly-ness" is in the eye of the friend". 15.10 things that make software user-friendly . Offer meaningful support.P. would you take the standards of some self-appointed busy-bodies. as long as it has the answers and I can find them. Like RF7000 Reply Sep 16. 2010 As an ISV. as I infered from one poster: who is the 'friend' of the developer? I think 'userfriendly' means "just like I would have designed it" Glen Like devshop Reply Sep 16.who are you refering to there? If you had a multi-billion dollar software company and it's I. I am ok with a forum or a knowledge base. 2010 Technically if you're main complaint about antivirus etc is the need to use third party programs. or.techrepublic. to protect. Like weston2k Reply Sep 16.TechRepublic windows. the next form is the same. Say what you do/Do what you[11/4/2015 4:50:53 PM] . I would like to share whatever you do easily. or would you go your own way? More anti-ms clap trap.

2010 This was an inefficient (and inefficiently executed) design choice. Like MichP Reply Sep 15.wikimedia. not those of the customer.10 things that make software user-friendly .org/wikipedia/en/f/fb/Userfri endly. feedback.this is a different issue altogether!! Like The 'G-Man. just like before!'. However I make sure there are plenty of pre-built reports on the Print menu so that the user doesn't have to spend half a day setting up a report to simply print their data. the problem is in the eye of the beholder. Old version users are the ones that had the issue . 2010 Accurate assessment. as developers.1 was being adopted. I always include a designer for building reports in every[11/4/2015 4:50:53 PM] . if you've got a lot of "cool" features in the app. My company gave training sessions on how to get around in Windows when 3. consider our software user-friendly.TechRepublic 'Oh. 2010 Windows never was intuitive. We. feedback = good software.gif More at http://www. For example. http://www.20030128. based on our own opinions. but it's not required for the overall functionality of the users find it easy to use and learn the product faster . don't make the user use them or even look at them to use the simple parts. Second. I have learned to right-click to find options. but there are a lot of people that still never think of that.' Reply Sep 16. Which is why I do NOT want to use a ribbon in the software I write.that was the whole point. Often. But now most people have used mice and icons long enough that we don't think about it.' Reply Sep 16. How so? . We sometimes forget user = customer. 2010 http://upload. The designer is there (and documented) if they want to spend some time in the future customizing their reports. no matter how much Microsoft is pushing it (at least not for several years).techrepublic. Like The 'G-Man. Like garystafford Reply Sep 16.

TechRepublic Like wizard57m-cnet Reply Sep 15. I don't know.techrepublic. I get the impression that almost all modern operating systems do a decent job at error handling and reporting. or at the most a click OK to proceed. oh.5 "things".. or is out of your unnamed target's (Microsoft) control... you must install and use Java to enable OO to work with those standards. Total score = 1. These are already handled almost without user interaction.. did you just reprint a rant on Windows 98. ad nauseum. probably at the behest of such behemoths as. Yet you rail against it (3rd party software).10 things that make software user-friendly . but virtually all platforms.let's case you fell asleep in 1999 or so. Number 7. Finally number 10. Like Add your Comment Reply Powered by Livefyre Related Ads 1 GUI Tools 5 Recover Passwords 2 Free Web Hosting 6 Download The Source Code 3 Certification Programs 7 Windows XP SP3 4 Malware Removal 8 Mobile Security http://www.ok. Number 6 effects not only Windows applications. but then you digress to command line for Linux to aid in troubleshooting? Thought you were extolling the benefits of GUIs? Hmmm. So I'll give you that one.well.. relying on third party software. with a few updated references to Office 2010 and the "ribbon" to give an appearance of relevance? Virtually every one of your 10 items has been addressed.. yet another third party! Number 8.[11/4/2015 4:50:53 PM] . 2010 They want their Y2K bug back! Seriously. that's a half. Could it be improved? Probably. then in number 9 you espouse Open Office for its standards compliance. the Justice Department sort of coerced MS into leaving a lot of those out of Windows.. Trend Micro et al etc. maybe Symantec.. you at least aknowledge some improvement in Windows. oh yes. Let's forget the first 5.

All rights reserved.10 things that make software user-friendly . Privacy Policy | Cookies | Ad Choice | Terms of Use | Mobile User Agreement A ZDNet site | Visit other CBS Interactive sites: Select Select Site Site http://www.TechRepublic Latest on Tech Pro Research Research: The rise of agile IT Hardware procurement policy Job description: Systems engineer Explore Services Blogs About Us Downloads Membership Q&A Newsletters Discussions RSS Feeds Meet the Team Site Map Tech Pro Research Resource Library Site Help & Feedback Photos FAQ Videos Advertise Job description: Information security analyst Reprint Policy © 2015 CBS[11/4/2015 4:50:53 PM] .techrepublic.