By trying to sell computers as intuitive and obvious, as requiring no special skill to pick up or use, we are giving every new user a model of IT that cannot sustain their long-term use.
It is as if we told sixteen year olds that once they can drive a dodgem car at the fair they are safe to go out on the roads, because they can pick things up as they go along.
The disaster of Windows security is certainly Microsoft's fault, as for too many years they concentrated on usability at the expense of user safety.
But it is also our fault too, for not being willing to engage with our computers as complex environments that require constant attention, where our skills must be developed over time and where learning never really stops.
Sending out e-mails with everyone on the To: list is embarrassing, but it also reveals a much deeper malaise and one that we all need to address.
Yes, make computers easier to use, experiment with new interfaces like the radical approach taken on the XO model from the One Laptop Per Child project, and offer simpler and more intuitive interfaces where they are useful.
Strangely enough Apple, who focus more than most on ease of use in their advertising, also do a very good job of offering one-to-one hand-holding for new Mac users.
It is time to stop pretending that ordinary users will not need to apply themselves carefully to learn how to use these powerful systems effectively. We need to make sure that the necessary training and advice is provided when and where it is needed.
When I first set up Jakob Nielsen's unofficial blog last year, I wanted to populate it with all of his Alertbox entries back to 1995. Well I have finally got round to importing blog entries for over 400 items.
Jakob 'Major' Nielsen today called on the BBC to turn away from Web2.0 hype and return to the golden age of blue links and horizontal rules.
He presented a version of the future for the BBC that harked back to the time when a bbc news page could load in under 0.5 seconds and was only permitted to include one image in each page. No extraneous navigation is allowed in the new world order and text can be any colour you want as long as it is black (apart from links).
This revolutionary "WebLite" version of the BBC News Page is expected to prompt web designers to start editing the raw "html" of their in simple text editors in an attempt to "get back to content" rather than concentrating on the gaudy baubles of ajaxian trinkets.
If you care passionately about usability and accessibility, and you want your organization's Web site to be usable, you will have to convince people it's important. People who don't think about usability aren't going to suddenly start thinking about it because the boss sends out a memo. So make the case for usability. It starts with you.
"Usability testing before launch allowed us to make sure our new site was fast, friendly and easy to use. Usability by Design helped ensure that customers can quickly find the products they want and purchase them easily, helping the new John Lewis site maintain the high quality that customers expect from John Lewis." John Phipps, Vice President Commercial, John Lewis
Using Documentary-Style Video to Place Real People at the Center of the Design Process
In a user-centered design research setting, many hours of videotape are reduced to a few key minutes in the interest of saving colleagues' time, capturing short attention spans, and communicating that which is most compelling, insightful, and germane. Because of this brevity, video ethnographers are sometimes asked by colleagues, "How do we know what really happened when we only see footage after it has been edited?" It is a legitimate question. How does a fellow researcher know whether the video being presented accurately reflects reality? How does he or she know how to "read" the images? When does video need to be framed and contextualized for the viewer? Why can or can't it stand on its own? How does the specific use of video for ethnography and user-centered design research help determine how it should be viewed and by whom? Should different audiences be given different levels of contextualization and complexity? What is appropriate to present in an active, workshop setting, and what works in a relatively passive presentation?