Monday, March 05, 2007

The Switch Board Lesson

Whenever someone tries to explain me about something new, I ask him/her to give out examples. It's relatively easy for me to pick up that new idea if I could relate it to an analogy which I’m familiar with. It could be anything, anything out of life. There are very few people who can do this well. It all depends on the analogy they gives out, if gone wrong will screw up the whole understanding. I can end up getting wrong knowledge/information.

Many times examples have helped me in picking up new technology ideas, as I’m not a techie. I relate technology to the real life happenings and I understand it perfectly in and out. My Business Management teacher in college was the best in giving examples and may be that’s why I was good at the subject. He used to explain each and every fundas of Management using real life examples and my brain registered it quickly. When I started out my career, my colleagues who used to teach me the work, used to explain things to me using examples. And may be that’s the reason I got all the basics right, right from the initial days.

And now I’m working as a User Experience Designer and most of the time I’m explaining and trying to sell my ideas to others about how to crack a design requirement. The trick of explaining everything using an interesting analogy or metaphor has helped me convincing my co workers about ideas I have visualized. Also to my friends when they ask me doubts varying from, what’s web 2.0, how does Google work, how to make use of blogs to achieve their goals, why their parents are not able to see the picture they sent as an attachment mail, to xhtml/css lessons.



My father always asks me about the kind of job I’m doing. Whenever I tell him I’m a software user experience designer he never gets it. Once I tried to explain to him in detail what I do for a living. I showed him this switch board in my kitchen and asked him to guess which switch belongs to which plug. Even though he got the answer right, he admitted that he had to analyze a way bit too much to get it right. Even though the switchboard looks simple, according to me it would have been simpler if the ‘switch and plug’ association was a bit more obvious. One of the switches on the board controls my refrigerator’s connection and whenever people go into the kitchen I have to show them the switch and warn not to switch it off. It simply means the switch board is not intuitive enough for the user to guess what happens when he/she puts off a switch. That’s called bad user experience. To make the switch board better usable and intuitive is good user experience and that’s what exactly I do when I design software applications. I make it intuitive, not only useful but also usable and also make it aesthetically appealing. Overall my job is to improve the user’s experience. My dad got it instantly.

5 comments:

Vincy said...

Crisp n sweet! Its not only ur dad but also me who exactly understood wat u do at work n also made me realise that after all u really do sumtin useful at office ;-)

Umesh said...

Hey Vincy (I know who really you are), glad to know that you understood that i do something useful at office. :)

onepyre said...

It's definitely the best way to get the message across - explain a concept with real life parallels.

So I'm guessing that you now have improved the visual language of your switchboard at home so that the fridge plug doesnt get accidently put off...
How did the problem get solved?

Umesh said...

The problem is not solved. Actually i never thought of solving it.

May be it says all this “user experience” and “intuitive UI” is just for the first time. Later on once the user gets used to the UI there is no point in tweaking the usability.

Or may be i was too lazy to do anything on it. :)

LAVINA said...

........ and i finally understood what you do !!!!!! switch board was a good example wonder why u didnt tell us all b4 !!! good going "designer umesh"