Dear Software Developer…

Dear Software Developer…

Please bear in mind when you are designing your next piece of software for the general public that the general public are not software designers. I may know things about the fields in which I specialize that you would not know, but you definitely know things about software that I do not, so when you are designing software for me to use, you need to take my ignorance into account. This is especially true when providing “directions.”

Let us say that I am attempting to explain to someone how to prepare a recipe and I say to them, “first, sauté the onions in clarified butter.” I am assuming, stating my instructions in that manner, that the person with whom I am dealing knows: a) what onions are, b) knows what the word ‘sauté ’means, and c) knows what clarified butter is. It was a simple sentence; the instructions are fairly ordinary… unless the person to whom I am speaking does not understand those three key words… or perhaps doesn’t even speak the language.

Recently, I had an experience with the attempted installation of a voice-recognition software. This particular voice-recognition software has acknowledged issues with its functioning in Windows 10. In fact, the software that I was installing was identical to the software I had previously installed about a year before but which, apparently upon my saying just the wrong thing, had locked up my entire computer and killed itself. At least that was my impression of it. And remember, I know nothing.

So I had purchased new software at just about the same price it would have cost me to get customer service on the old software and without the hassle of dealing with this particular company’s customer service page which ranks among the worst I have ever dealt with… but darned if I didn’t end up back on the so-called customer service page anyway as the result of crappy instructions on how to install the softwear.

Here’s the thing… and it’s a simple thing: if you want me to perform an operation and there are three choices that I have as to which way I can perform that operation (in this particular case there was the option of a remote mic, the in-computer mic, or the plug-in headphone set) then tell me ahead of time that there are three options. Just lay it out there for me: A, B, C. I’m a big girl; if I don’t know what A, B and C are I can go online, find out, and make the appropriate decision. But if you just present me with one of the three options and don’t alert me to the existence of the two other available options, then it seems like I’m gonna have to pick A, doesn’t it? Because I don’t know the others exist. And then when A locks up my entire computer because A is not compatible with its operating system… well, then what?

I’ll tell you what; then I’m not happy. Then I have whole new problems I don’t want to deal with, problems that I’m not equipped to deal with because I didn’t grow up with this stuff. This is new to me; it’s not second nature to me and it’s not part of my DNA. Your offspring will have it in their DNA; my offspring grew up with it; to me it is as a foreign language using an entirely unfamiliar set of characters which I first encountered in my 50s.

So when I found myself in the very same boat I’d been in before, facing a situation identical to the one that had caused my problem in the first place, I had to do the thing I didn’t want to do when A had first locked up my computer: I had to get in touch with a hideous online so-called customer service department. And when, after numerous failed attempts to identify my problem from a drop-down menu where my problem was nowhere to be found, followed by numerous exchanged emails that ultimately informed me that I would have to call in but finally provided me with what I would’ve liked to have had in the first place: someone to talk to. This someone walked me through the exceedingly poorly described process of installing the software, providing me with instructions that could very easily have been supplied along with the original software package, instructions that were easily understandable and which someone who was even more a fool than I could’ve effortlessly followed… if they’d had them.

You know way more about this stuff than I ever will; please imagine, when making your finely tuned product available to the general public, that a decently high number of us have no freaking clue. We need things spelled out. You’re smart; you should be able to do that.

I know that it is not your job to teach me how to program softwear, but if you sell me a product that you have created, it is your job to make sure that I know how to use it. That is part of what I when I purchased it!

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