Suffering from poor interface design

It’s recently become more of a challenge for me to learn new systems.  I sometimes wonder why some computer systems are harder to use than others, at first I thought it was just me and my slow uptake of new information but on reflection and observation of my learners, I now feel it has a lot to do with the system or rather the interface.

I’ve observed some other strange behaviour, some people find it easy to use Gmail, Yahoo etc on their phone but more complicated to use the same tools on a PC. I’m not talking about technophobes that would rather write a letter with a quill and an ink well than send an email or social media post. I’m talking about people that are addicted to consuming the internet on their phone and are fully immersed in mobile technology, taking away their phone is almost like taking away a physical part of their body.

So why do these people find it easy to use apps on their phone and harder to use the same applications on their computer? The answer is the same reason that I find it hard to learn some systems at work, it’s all to do with user interface design and the overall user experience.

If a developer is asked to build a system that produces management information, they make focus on the main objective of producing management information. They may think of what types of reports and charts can be produced from the raw data, the possible uses that end users may have for this information. They may end up working so long on the back end that they leave little time for the user interface, some developers may even think that a user interface is of little importance, it’s the information that matters most.

I don’t blame them for this view, I think that user experience is now so important and specialised that it should not be left to developers that are not skilled in this area it should not be an afterthought but an integral part of developing a new system. To be clear I am not just talking about developing computer systems and applications, I also talking about developing eLearning, I have had the same challenges with eLearning or LMS interfaces that are very hard to use because someone hasn’t given much thought to how users (teachers, trainers, students) will interact with the system.  I have found this both with Moodle at university and commercial LMS setups. That said, I have also experienced good Moodle setups, how do I know it was good? Simple, I didn’t have to spend the best years of my adult life looking for stuff that should have just been a couple of clicks away.

I think people find it easy to use mobile apps because often more attention is given to their layout and the overall user experience, screen space is at a premium on a mobile phone so you have to be careful with your layout.

I also think touch screens aid memory retention, do I have any evidence for this? No. it’s all down to reflection on personal experience, you may or may not agree with me.

Let me know what you think

Thanks

David M

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