(This is a tasty morsel from the introduction to my recent SAP PRESS e-book.)
When I first started working as an ABAP developer, SAP GUI scared the daylights out of me. The sheer volume of stuff on the screen, the weird way of selecting folders and subfolders in configuration, the intimidating number of transaction codes to memorize—it took me a long time to become comfortable with it all. I was a developer, so I could mostly escape having to perform business transactions directly in SAP GUI. If my job had been to enter information into those screens as I made sales or monitored inventory, I think I would have quit.
I noticed that the little annoyances would affect my mood. When I scrolled a long ALV list and all the little boxes briefly turned into broken image link placeholders, I was frustrated. When a report screen wasn’t clear about what I could double-click, I’d lose time trying to understand how to proceed in the transaction. When I wasn’t sure if the text I put in a field would stay in lowercase or be converted to uppercase by some process, I lost the ability to predict how my experience would work. It dragged me down emotionally, in a way that I wasn’t even aware of until I’d used SAP GUI long enough to learn those tricks.
The way you interact with software is governed—and limited—by your emotions and your various mental capacities. It’s governed by the ways in which your brain is able to experience it. If the software includes modules for everything under the sun, letting you do everything from inventing recipes to tagging photos of your lunch to delegating responsibilities to your subordinates, then, due to the limitations of the human brain, you can only ever truly experience some small part of it.
That experience guides your overall feelings about that software. If you must use it, and you hate it and wish you could be doing anything else, that colors your formulation of that software. You don’t think of it as “a world-class MDM solution, complete with workflow,” you think, “oh my goodness, I really hate using that stupid MDM solution. I wish I was doing anything but that.” No matter what else it can do, it’s lodged in your head as bad.
For the end user, the experience is the same thing as the application. As developers, we may think of applications as binaries, or source code, or web architectures—but from the end user perspective, absolutely none of that stuff matters. The user experience (UX) is the relationship between a user and the technology she uses.
The UX is also the human experience, and the human experience emerges from the brain. Your eyes gather light, but your brain produces vision; your ears pick up sounds, but your brain produces language understanding; your hands touch snow, but your brain produces the concept of “cold.”
For application developers, it pays mightily to understand the psychological elements of humans who will use your app. Designing items on the screen is like designing memories for end users.
(Pick it up and read the rest today!)
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