People Do The Darndest Things

Once upon a time, I was taking an online-only human-centered interactive design class and we had to make paper prototypes and go out into the world at large and see if the average Joe could grok what we were trying to design. I was designing a simple (and fake) website for people who liked to customize their clothing (t-shirts, specifically) and wanted to find ideas and examples and share their work with others.

My classmate C.J.D. was designing a video game interface. Quoth he, about his test sessions:

“One of my testers was very amusing, and really reacted to my interface the way he would a computer. One difficulty I ran into was him getting impatient when I had to find the next piece of paper i needed, so he kept clicking the button over and over even though he could see me looking for the paper. The only way I could get him to stop clicking was to make a hourglass drawing on a card and stick it on the screen while I searched for the right paper. Boy he hated this card, and would always react with some sort of frustrating reaction when I set it down (but he stopped clicking). After a while of this, he finally said upon seeing one hourglass “I minimize the window and go to another site while I wait”. I thought this was a really interesting example of how much users don’t want to have to deal with waiting or any sort of hassle like too many click-throughs.”

A sketch of an hourglass! That’s priceless.

I exhaled Cheerwine through my nostrils involuntarily. I didn’t think that ever literally happened, and that all the people posting about spit-takes and beverages exiting noses at high velocity were just being colorful to describe how funny they thought something posted has been. I discovered that this can, and does, actually happen! (“Dear Penthouse, I never thought it would happen to me, but…”)

It was just so unexpected to run across a funny anecdote like this on a grad school class discussion board.

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