Why Some Technical Folk Don't Get It

14 December 2005

Hubris is a subject we’ve covered several times before. Lately, it has come to mind again. This time it’s about technical people who simply cannot tolerate the “ignorant users.”

Examples include:

  • a web host unsatisfied with a customer’s requests
  • a technical writer indifferent toward a customer’s ignorance
  • a medical office receptionist accusing the patient when the receptionist is unable to find fifteen years of patient history
  • a university forcing people to park in the wrong place in order to go inside a building and request that the gate be opened into the area visitors are supposed to park—complete with reprimand for parking in the wrong place
  • a software company overly confident that they know the better way in the face of customer requests to the contrary
  • a community of users now seeing their discussion forum dominated by a narrow group of snarky experts threatened by any intrusion from the outsiders

There are solutions, but those in a position to change things must want to satisfy customers. You must be willing to ask (sincerely), “who are the customers and what do they want?”

In a 2002 poll, the Consumer Electronics Association discovered that 87% of people said ease of use is the most important thing when it comes to new technologies. “Engineers say, ‘Do you know how much complexity we’ve managed to build in here?’ But consumers say, ‘I don’t care. It’s just supposed to work!’ ” says Daryl Plummer, group vice president at Gartner Group.—from The Beauty of Simplicity by Linda Tischler writing for Fast Company magazine.

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