Look Ma! No F9!

More people should read the Design of Everyday Things. I couldn’t do the book justice but it did explain something to me that I’d never seen written down anywhere else before and was sorely reminded of today.

It seems that everyday things have something called ‘affordances’ which should give us mental clues about how they work. The design of everyday things attempts to teach us that poorly designed things lead us down wrong mental-paths and make mistakes when using those things. Mistakes that at best might get our fingers burnt or at worst cost lives.

So far so good. What do you do then when the mental-paths that people are sent down get so worn that they can’t think straight anymore? Of course, I’m talking about spreadsheets again. It seems spreadsheets are so ubiquitous and are so well understood by so many people that some people when faced with technology view it as one enormous spreadsheet. Which is ironic because we know by now that spreadsheets simply can’t be enormous because they don’t scale.

I really don’t think technologists should beat non-technologists up about their lack of technical expertise. That’s just counter-productive and plain wrong. But what do you do when you are faced with someone who has convinced themselves that it’s all one big spreadsheet? How do you explain to them that in my world there is no F9? Where’s that pencil …

One thought on “Look Ma! No F9!”

  1. I saw this and though of you: http://www.cleanupdata.com
    It’s allows you to cleanup / change / reformat the data in an Excel spreadsheet. Might save you some pain.

    Kudos for mentioning The Design of Everyday Things. My favorite bit is on those English trains where you have to lean out the window to open the door. And they still make stoves with the buttons all in a row.

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