Friday, June 13, 2008

Moving on up...

I am officially moving from the world of paying for services I can get for free. At the end of this month I will be shutting down my Mindspring account. This means I lose my old e-mail address and my web page. New email is I will be using this blog space to replace my old web page.

I will also be dealing with the gas crisis by working from home two days a week. This has meant putting in a high speed connection that lets me get into my Lotus Notes and the IBM Intranet. What a pain that was--but it's all done. Things I didn't know: Fiber optic DSL does not use a modem, and my company's VPN apparently needs the IP address a modem attaches. So one week of doodling with fiber optic down the drain. So I now have cable Internet access which comes with a modem. Another lesson learned: If the cable installer uses your desktop computer to test the modem (while you're at work) the modem will not work on your laptop that night unless you power down the modem and start it up again, after you connect it to the laptop. As a technical communicator I was ticked that such a simple requirement took me two hours to learn (and learn eventually from a tech support call). Add to this that the first time they came to install the modem they didn't come prepared to install the cable (duh!) and when I called tech support and waited on hold to get a human, they disconnected me when they tried to transfer me the the right tech.

Enough whining, but I do wonder how we make money off of technology when the usability barriers to entry are so high. The latter problem was not a technology issue, it was a UX one. The modem was beautifully designed--IT DID EVERYTHING! The breakdown was that the installer tested it on one computer, disconnected it from that computer and left it powered up, looking "ready to plug and play." I did the natural thing and plugged it into my laptop. The user experience failed because the installer should have (1) Turned power off to the modem and (2) left instructions.

Lesson learned, user experience is a process that crosses all kinds of disciplines. The doc is just one element in the system and the critical channels often have nothing to do with the technology.

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