dumbing it down and ease of use.....

11 Apr 2005 - 6:19pm
9 years ago
4 replies
361 reads
ji kim
2004

I just read an article about how this company is trying to dumb down its software to make it easier to use. It's great that they are trying to focus more on ease of use, but I guess I have a problem with the word "dumbing it down".

This isn't the first time I heard companies using this terminology/metaphor, do they really believe "ease of use = stuff that's designed for dumb people"????? Hmmm.....

http://news.com.com/SAS+tries+to+get+smart+by+dumbing+down+tools/2100-1012_3-5662427.html?tag=cd.top

ji

Comments

11 Apr 2005 - 6:29pm
Bill DeRouchey
2010

In cases like this, I think "dumbing it" refers to the process, not the
result.

I also like the implicit notion that it not being easy to use was the
fault of the users.

Bill

On Mon, 11 Apr 2005, ji kim wrote:

> I just read an article about how this company is trying to dumb down its
> software to make it easier to use. It's great that they are trying to
> focus more on ease of use, but I guess I have a problem with the word
> "dumbing it down".
>
> This isn't the first time I heard companies using this
> terminology/metaphor, do they really believe "ease of use = stuff that's
> designed for dumb people"????? Hmmm.....

11 Apr 2005 - 7:32pm
Donna Fritzsche
2005

What I think they actually mean to say is that they are targeting a
new set of users who have less knowledge of statistics - So that they
need to recast their functionality in terms of what their new users
do know and/or are trying to accomplish.

I think that they underlying point is that their software was
conceptually difficult for users who are not well-trained in
statistical concepts.

I dont think its really statement about the ease of use of the
original software - but that could be an issue also.

donna

At 4:29 PM -0700 4/11/05, Bill DeRouchey wrote:
>[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
>In cases like this, I think "dumbing it" refers to the process, not the
>result.
>
>I also like the implicit notion that it not being easy to use was the
>fault of the users.
>
>Bill
>
>
>On Mon, 11 Apr 2005, ji kim wrote:
>
>> I just read an article about how this company is trying to dumb down its
>> software to make it easier to use. It's great that they are trying to
>> focus more on ease of use, but I guess I have a problem with the word
>> "dumbing it down".
>>
>> This isn't the first time I heard companies using this
>> terminology/metaphor, do they really believe "ease of use = stuff that's
>> designed for dumb people"????? Hmmm.....
>
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12 Apr 2005 - 8:39am
Jack L. Moffett
2005

I wonder if they did make the software easier to use. I'm a little suspect
when "company executives" say they focused on making the product easier to
use. Apparently their CEO thinks they just made it pretty.

> "We were tired of being 'niched' as a high-end statistics company," company
> founder and CEO James Goodnight said. "Now we can win a beauty contest with
> (competitors) Cognos or Business Objects."

All in all, I would say this article is an example of people who just don't
get it.

Jack

Jack L. Moffett
Interaction Designer
inmedius
412.690.2360 x219
http://www.inmedius.com

Charles Eames was asked the question,
"What are the boundaries of design?"

He answered,

"What are the boundaries of problems?"

- Charles Eames

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12 Apr 2005 - 9:06am
Gerard Torenvliet
2004

There is a good argument against this 'dumbing-down' rhetoric: every
task has a certain basic complexity. For instance, there is a basic
amount of complexity to writing an essay, independent of whether you
support that task with a pen and paper, a manual typewriter, or a word
processor.

Good design ensures that the support for a task increases its
complexity only minimally beyond it basic complexity. Bad design tends
to increase the complexity of a task a whole lot more.

SAS has some risk here - they have a very thin line to walk between
making a great interface that enables statisticians to exercise their
(significant) expertise and trying to make statistical analysis more
accessible to the masses by covering up some of the inherent
complexity of statistical techniques. (I don't know how much this
applies to their database querying software, but I have seen this
pressure at work in their statistical products.)

Gary Klein (www.decisionmaking.com) has a great talk related to this,
called "How to Make People Stupid". In it he talks about many cases in
which designers tried to mask the basic complexity of tasks in their
software. This made it easier for novices to do their work but
effectively stopped expertise from forming. For instance, he talked
about software given to weather forecasters that aggressively smoothed
pressure gradient data (i.e., the stuff forecasters use to find
fronts). This made fronts appear as lines, which helped novice
forecasters but hindered experts, who had learned to make different
judgments about the types of weather occuring based on the spacing and
arrangements of pressure dots.

Still, for better or for worse, there will always be business
pressures that compel us to make 'expert' tasks accessible to the
masses. The challenge is how not to sell your soul in the process. :-)

-Gerard

--
Gerard Torenvliet
g.torenvliet at gmail.com

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