The promises we make
What promises does Microsoft word make you? Some are overt, “create visually compelling documents more easily than ever”
Some are less so “if you create a document with these bizarre placeholders and hook me up to excel I will do a database driven mail merge for you”.
All software makes promises. The best software delivers on it’s promises. The worst software doesn’t even understand the promises it’s making.
If you are buying or using a piece of software, don’t automatically assume that any struggles you encounter are due to your inability to understand “these damn things”. It’s probably not your fault.
If you are a software designer, take the time to explore your creation looking for broken promises. The more broken promises your users encounter, the more frustrated they are going to be with the experience, and frustrated users don’t often translate into loyal users.
Finding hidden promises is difficult, but the easiest way to find them is through some kind of user testing. Sitting a novice user down in front of your software and asking them to perform common tasks will quickly reveal some promises you didn’t know you were making.