Five Minutes That Will Make Users Happy

My kitchen has a very nice range hood over the cooktop. It has a powerful  fan and beautiful brushed steel finish. And it has a user experience like most IT systems: Lousy.

Let’s think about what a range hood does. It has two main functions:

  1. Start the fan to extract grease and fumes
  2. Turn on the light over the cooktop

Because of the shape of a range hood, the buttons to operate it are typically placed in a row. A row of buttons has two good, easily found positions:

  1. To the far left
  2. To the far right

range_hood_1000

Two primary functions, two good button locations. It would not take five minutes of thought to allocate functions to buttons. Unfortunately, the engineers at ATAG did not spend those five minutes. Instead, they placed the button for the light 5th from left, 3rd from right. And what did the use the good right-hand position for? The rarely-used feature of resetting the filter cleaning warning. A button I press every three months at most.

Most IT project do not spend these five minutes of thought either. Large, professional organizations have a team of UX professionals, like the people I work with at Oracle. But even if you don’t have professional UX designers, every developer can spend five minutes thinking about the task the user wants to achieve.

Most IT systems are like my range hood: Just inconvenient enough to make users slightly annoyed every time they have to concentrate on an operation that should have been easy and obvious.

Next time you build a system, spend a little while thinking about your users before you code. They’ll love you for it.