Bad user experience by design



  • This JUST happened, I am still in shock.

    Our in-house reporting system allows users to export raw data in CSV format, which they use to make pretty Excel charts and presentations. Some of the columns contain multiple data points, represented in a proprietary format which was required for a third-party charting package which we are no longer using.

    Today, one of the business stakeholders came with a request to change the output format into one more usable for their needs, expanding those specially-formatted columns into multiple columns, each containing a separate data point in a standard numeric format.

    The business stakeholder could not think of any reason they would ever need to have the older format, since none of the users are using the old tool anymore. However, just in case backwards compatibility is needed, the ability to export the older format must also be retained.

    I suggested that we default to the new format, but allow the user to select the old format at export time, if desired, and retain the setting in a cookie so that users could always get the data in the format they selected.

    The business stakeholder agreed.

    My manager disagreed.

    He suggested that the default be the old format, and that users select the new format each time.

    The business stakeholder replied that all of the current users will only be using the new format.

    My manager said that preserving backwards compatibility was paramount, that changing the default format would be confusing to users, and that having the system remember their previous selection could also confuse them, if they changed it once and forgot to change it back.

    When I suggested to him that we should consider the users' primary needs and usability, he replied that backwards compatibility was more important, and he would explain it in detail to me later--code for "stop contradicting me in front of the business users or feel my wrath".

    The business stakeholder took his explanation at face value, and said "OK, I guess we'll have to do it that way."

    So, it was agreed that in order to get the new format that 100% of them need, users will have to explicitly select the "Export details..." option and go to the Export Details page. From the Export Details page, they check the "New multi-column format" option, then press the "Export" button.

    To get the new format that none of them need, users will have to just press the "Export" button.

    Afterwards, I asked my manager why he argued against the users' request.

    "Two reasons," he replied.

    "First, setting the default to something other than the current format will require lots more coding."

    No, I thought, it's a binary flag that gets set to 1 or 0. You want to save one bit, maybe?

    "Second, using a cookie to save each users' selection requires so much more testing, that it's not worth the trouble."

    "But," I said, "what about user experience? If the usability is poor, they will be annoyed every time they use the application."

    "Maybe," he replied, "but it's an internal application so usability doesn't matter."



  • @takatori said:

    "Maybe," he replied, "but it's an internal application so usability doesn't matter."




    He is so zen.



  • @Nelle said:

    @takatori said:
    "Maybe," he replied, "but it's an internal application so usability doesn't matter."




    He is so zen.

    You don't know how right you are. I forgot to mention that this is a Japanese company.

    I'm the only westerner, which does lead to a lot of "don't listen to him what does he know Japan is different and conditions are special so his experience heretofore counts for nothing". In technology, that's hardly ever the case as far as I have seen.



  • @takatori said:

    business stakeholders
    Does this phrase make anyone else cringe when they read it?



  • @PJH said:

    @takatori said:

    business stakeholders
    Does this phrase make anyone else cringe when they read it?

    Yeah, me too for that matter. Got a better translation for "営業関係者"?



  • @takatori said:

    "Maybe," he replied, "but it's an internal application so usability doesn't matter."

     

    That mindset explains much.



  • Implement both, and only show the stupid way to the manager.



  • @takatori said:

    Yeah, me too for that matter. Got a better translation for "営業関係者"?
    From the context of that post "customer" , or "user," depending on how formal the relationship between the departments is.

    Google isn't really being helpful with the translation. ("Official business" from Japanese or "Activities Business relationships are" from chinese, to save everyone looking.)



  • ,@takatori said:

    This JUST happened, I am still in shock.

     

    I understand how you feel and your point of view makes sense.

    That being said, changing the current default setting for any existing application is a MAJOR headache when trying to get the users trained that it has changed. Some of them simply don't get it. Others fear change and will automatically hate it because it isn't what they are used to.

    An idea can make perfect sense, but unfortunately, users don't always.



  • @takatori said:

    "First, setting the default to something other than the current format will require lots more coding."

    If the option is in a sub-menu, users will take about half a minute or so to activate the option and lose even more time by exporting in the wrong format first and finding out too late (started to work with it) or needing a support call. The manager is trading his costs (1 hour developer time) against other department's lost productivity (adding up to many days). He looks good, but the net result is wasted money.

    Why can't they at least add a second [Export new format] button without having to use the details page?



  • @PJH said:

    @takatori said:

    business stakeholders
    Does this phrase make anyone else cringe when they read it?

    You may not like them now, but you'll be glad they're there the day the business vampires turn up!

     



  • @jpaull said:

    ,@takatori said:

    This JUST happened, I am still in shock.

     

    I understand how you feel and your point of view makes sense.

    That being said, changing the current default setting for any existing application is a MAJOR headache when trying to get the users trained that it has changed. Some of them simply don't get it. Others fear change and will automatically hate it because it isn't what they are used to.

    An idea can make perfect sense, but unfortunately, users don't always.

    I don't think that's what's going to happen in this case.  What users want more than anything in the world is for everything to "just work", and preferably for the computer to magically know what they want and do it without being told.  If they export the data and try and import it and it doesn't work, they will think something's wrong.  If they export the data and it "just works" when loaded into their downstream app, they will be happy.

    I guess the problem with having the default set in a cookie is that sooner or later they will clear out their browser's cookie cache and then suddenly everything will break and they won't know why.

    OTOH, this is just about generating output in a CSV format?  Why not just always generate both?  Output all the data points in their new format, and add one last column on the end that has a copy of the results in the old format?  Or is deselecting a column when they import into their target app too difficult?

     



  •  @takatori said:

    --code for "stop contradicting me in front of the business users or feel my wrath".

    FUCK THAT!  If he's being an idiot I'll contradict him in front of his mother, and he can shove his wrath up his ass!  What the hell kind of spineless corporate cog are you anyway!?!?  If you stuck up for yourself and made it clear you actually want to make a better product, by the time his wrath comes around you'll have his damn job!



  • @Master Chief said:

    FUCK THAT!  If he's being an idiot I'll contradict him in front of his mother, and he can shove his wrath up his ass!  What the hell kind of spineless corporate cog are you anyway!?!?  If you stuck up for yourself and made it clear you actually want to make a better product, by the time his wrath comes around you'll have his damn job!
    Someone clearly hasn't had experience of other cultures. Perhaps you should take some time out to work in Japan.

    Or with that attitude, maybe the middle east. It'd suit more.



  • @Master Chief said:

    FUCK THAT...

    Your reply makes me think that you didn't read the comment where the OP says that he is the only foreigner working in a Japanese company (in Japan, one would assume). For that matter, it doesn't sound like you have much real-world business experience at all.

    In all the alternate universes, there is none where contradicting your Japanese boss in front of customers/clients brings a positive outcome. Nor one where doing so actually gets you his job. Both sides of the table would be profoundly uncomfortable.

    For that matter, the odds of a non-Japanese managing Japanese white-collar employees under any circumstances are long indeed. "People would find it uncomfortable because you can't understand them like a Japanese can" is enough to scotch that idea. Hell, even if you are a Japanese woman it's hard. In my (relatively progressive) company, of 56 managers exactly 1 was female -- and she was on the lowest level.



  • @Daid said:

    Implement both, and only show the stupid way to the manager.
     

    Right on, brother!

    You're getting all John Edwards psychic on me! That's exactly where my thinking was headed. Subvert the dominant paradigm, and all that.



  • @takatori said:

    @PJH said:

    @takatori said:

    business stakeholders
    Does this phrase make anyone else cringe when they read it?

    Yeah, me too for that matter. Got a better translation for "営業関係者"?

     

    I don't know Japanese, but that sounds pretty accurate in context.  My previous company was certified CMM Level 5 and thus had to rigorously follow their documented processes for requirements, design reviews, code reviews, etc. Everything was stakeholders this and stakeholders that.  Each affected group (management, dev teams, testers, etc.) had to provide stakeholder input to each phase of the process, each stakeholder had to sign off on the phase before we could proceed to the next one, every change post-requirements required stakeholder approval... and so on, ad nauseam. 

    What's the equivalent of "going postal" with wooden-stake-loaded crossbows?  "Going medieval"?  Because, yeah, if it makes you cringe when you read it once, imagine how it feels when you hear it several times a day for the better part of five years.  In fact I'm starting to feel my eyelid twitch just from writing this post.  

     



  • @PJH said:

    Or with that attitude, maybe the middle east. It'd suit more.

     

    I would agree normally, but the friggin business person they were developing the application for was ON. HIS.  SIDE.  If he had pushed it he could've gotten it done the right way.



  • @Master Chief said:

    @PJH said:

    Or with that attitude, maybe the middle east. It'd suit more.

     

    I would agree normally, but the friggin business person they were developing the application for was ON. HIS.  SIDE.  If he had pushed it he could've gotten it done the right way.

    I figure... if you actually care about the company and the work that is done, you would give the small concessions necessary to retain position and influence and keep "fighting the good fight" where it matters.  If you doesn't care that much about the company, then why are you getting this riled up over the issue?



  • @Master Chief said:

    @PJH said:

    Or with that attitude, maybe the middle east. It'd suit more.

     

    I would agree normally, but the friggin business person they were developing the application for was ON. HIS.  SIDE.  If he had pushed it he could've gotten it done the right way.

    This latest response isn't changing my opinion of your attitude. (Since you ignored the implied reason for including the middle east (buisness, not military, ethos.))

    And the fact you've ignored the other responses in the same vein... well...

    I refer the hono(u)rable troll to the answer I gave some time ago. You don't call your middle-eastern boss (if you're a westerner) an asshole - implied or otherwise. The implications for doing so are not the same for doing so in the US or Europe. In fact they're probably worse than doing it in the far east. And doing so is not going to get you his job.

    Did I mention the word troll yet?

    Oh yes, I did.



  •  Just distribute a greasemonkey script to everybody that auto-selects the new format.



  •  @PJH said:

    This latest response isn't changing my opinion of your attitude. (Since you ignored the implied reason for including the middle east (buisness, not military, ethos.))

    And the fact you've ignored the other responses in the same vein... well...

    I refer the hono(u)rable troll to the answer I gave some time ago. You don't call your middle-eastern boss (if you're a westerner) an asshole - implied or otherwise. The implications for doing so are not the same for doing so in the US or Europe. In fact they're probably worse than doing it in the far east. And doing so is not going to get you his job.

    Did I mention the word troll yet?

    Oh yes, I did.

    1)  You make the assumption I give a rats ass about your opinion of me.

    2)  And no I didn't, but you both said essentially the same thing, and I can't figure out how to double quote on CS.  Sue me.

    3)  I don't know business practices in the Middle East.

    4)  Because they're traditions doesn't make them right.  If you get fired because you stuck up for a better idea that would improve usability of a product, then it's the companies loss, not yours.  I can't believe any serious business person would fire someone because they refused to suck up with enough gusto, but if they will, then obviously they have inadquecy issues that need working out.

    If I was working on a project, and one of my subordinates had a better idea and could make a logical thought out argument as to why it would be better, I would at least consider it, and likely go with it if he turns out to be correct.  I'm sick and tired of seeing in business WORLDWIDE that good ideas and theories are stomped out of existence because some stupid fucking manager can't deal with not being right ALL THE TIME.  To management across the Earth, and to you for that matter:  Get over yourself.



  • @Master Chief said:

    @PJH said:

    Or with that attitude, maybe the middle east. It'd suit more.

     

    I would agree normally, but the friggin business person they were developing the application for was ON. HIS.  SIDE.  If he had pushed it he could've gotten it done the right way.

    It's interesting to see everyone's responses here now that I've had a chance to cool down. In general there are a lot of points of friction between managers, business, customers, and the engineers who have to build it--we often really don't have enough input into what we are asked to do.

    Actually, I think I will get it done the right way in the end, just not by contradicting my superior in front of his colleagues in a meeting. Even if I won the battle I would lose the war--even those who agreed with me would be turned off by my approach were I to have persisted. Decision-making doesn't work the same here.

    He's heard the idea, and based on past experience I suspect he will look at the initial "bad" implementation and suggest that we could "try" the other way.



  • Apropos of nothing, what got those two users banned, exactly?



  • @takatori said:

    Apropos of nothing, what got those two users banned, exactly?

    DaveK is only one person, and he isn't banned.



  • @takatori said:

    Apropos of nothing, what got those two users banned, exactly?

    That's just DaveK's gay little signature.   It's a reference to the banned message that shows up on a certain hardcore, German, scat fetish site he frequents.  As the story goes, DaveK saved up enough money from his paper route to buy a digital camcorder and uploaded several home movies that were just too depraved, even by the standards of hardened perverts.  Eventually they had to ban him just to stop the torrent of self-debasement.

     

    Lord knows we've made several attempts to save his soul, but that boy just can't help himself.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    @takatori said:

    Apropos of nothing, what got those two users banned, exactly?

    That's just DaveK's gay little signature.

    Lord knows we've made several attempts to save his soul, but that boy just can't help himself.

    Well that's just silly. So, he's like what, 12 years old? Some kind of programming prodigy, I guess.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    @takatori said:

    Apropos of nothing, what got those two users banned, exactly?

    That's just DaveK's gay little signature.   It's a reference to the banned message that shows up on a certain hardcore, German, scat fetish site he frequents.  As the story goes, DaveK saved up enough money from his paper route to buy a digital camcorder and uploaded several home movies that were just too depraved, even by the standards of hardened perverts.  Eventually they had to ban him just to stop the torrent of self-debasement.

     

    Lord knows we've made several attempts to save his soul, but that boy just can't help himself.

    Hahaha, still sore Morbs?  Because you sure don't sound bothered.

    Say, long as I'm gonna be living rent free in your head, couldn't you do something about the terrible drafts in here? :-P~~~



  • We have to deal with a similar situation at work where the bossman makes (or tries to anywahs) all the decisions.  He wouldn't like a confrontation in front of the clients but I've seen him reason with some people that were arguing loudly with him.  They have been with the company for almost 10 years though so maybe that's it  :-|



  • @PJH said:

    @takatori said:

    business stakeholders
    Does this phrase make anyone else cringe when they read it?

    Would you prefer "commercial vampire hunters"? 😃



  • @Anonymouse said:

    @PJH said:

    @takatori said:

    business stakeholders
    Does this phrase make anyone else cringe when they read it?

    Would you prefer "commercial vampire hunters"? 😃

    I prefer (commercial vampire) hunters to commercial (vampire hunters).  Those Wal-Mart vampires are extra ornery because they get only 38.5 hours a week and no health insurance.



  • @takatori said:

    Actually, I think I will get it done the right way in the end, just not by contradicting my superior in front of his colleagues in a meeting. Even if I won the battle I would lose the war--even those who agreed with me would be turned off by my approach were I to have persisted. Decision-making doesn't work the same here.

     

    Yeah, nobody likes to get called out in front of their peers.  While I am sure that a lot of people on here will say that they don' t mind, I still think that generally most people would take it personal.  Being polite about it, not making it a personal attack and taking it off line will definitely help your case.



  •  @Master Chief said:

     @takatori said:

    --code for "stop contradicting me in front of the business users or feel my wrath".

    FUCK THAT!  If he's being an idiot I'll contradict him in front of his mother, and he can shove his wrath up his ass!  What the hell kind of spineless corporate cog are you anyway!?!?  If you stuck up for yourself and made it clear you actually want to make a better product, by the time his wrath comes around you'll have his damn job!


    I am an American, working in an American company, in the US. So I can not speak for the OP's situation, but here in the US, I would fire you for continued insubordination if you made a pattern of starting a fight like this.  As a senior developer I often have to make decisions like the one above that sound bad but for reasons I might not want/be able get to in front of a customer (internal or external), the so called "bad" idea is better.  In this case, what I would expect of my team would be to let it go, just like the OP did, and then later at a design meeting we could discuss other options with more details, such as providing 2 export links. Then the real problem could be brought out, and sometimes my team has a better answer to the problem they did not know existed at the meeting with the customer, and when that happens we go with the better answer. Sometimes, I agree completely with them, but still do the less desirable choice becuase the people over my head forced it, or some other overriding force that is in play.  

     

    Short version: There is a time an place to debate issues, and in front of the customer is almost never that time or place. 🙂 



  • @VydorScope said:

    Short version: There is a time an place to debate issues, and in front of the customer is almost never that time or place. 🙂 

     

    Or, you could take the bloody 30 seconds to explain to me, generally of course, why your idea is better and I'd never bring it up again.  Hushing me like a child in front of a customer is the fastest way possible to piss me off.



  • @Master Chief said:

    Or, you could take the bloody 30 seconds to explain to me, generally of course, why your idea is better and I'd never bring it up again.  Hushing me like a child in front of a customer is the fastest way possible to piss me off.

     

    Which is what happend above...

    Again, there is a time and a place for debates, and a time and place for giving out info, and front of customer is the wrong time.  Try to act like a proffesional in these situtations, and it will nornally pay off with respect from everyone. Get upset and argue, and you just look like a child.

     



  • @VydorScope said:

    Which is what happend above...

    Again, there is a time and a place for debates, and a time and place for giving out info, and front of customer is the wrong time.  Try to act like a proffesional in these situtations, and it will nornally pay off with respect from everyone. Get upset and argue, and you just look like a child.

     

     

    I wouldn't get upset.  I wouldn't lay down and let you walk all over me either.  It is possible to do both.



  • What's the joke behind "アジアの病人"?
    "The Asian Patient", starring Ralph Fiennes Chang?



  • @takatori said:

    What's the joke behind "アジアの病人"?
    "The Asian Patient", starring Ralph Fiennes Chang?
     

    It only says "Patient" if you translate from Chinese to English, try Japanese to English.



  • @amischiefr said:

    @takatori said:

    What's the joke behind "アジアの病人"?
    "The Asian Patient", starring Ralph Fiennes Chang?
     

    It only says "Patient" if you translate from Chinese to English, try Japanese to English.

    Uh, well actually here in Tokyo we speak Japanese, and my co-workers agree, "病人" means "patient" or "person with an illness". What are you using to translate that gives something else?

    Three of us together can't figure out the the joke or alternate meaning. It it something like the 19th-century description of the Ottoman Empire as being the "Sick man of Europe?" Please enlighten us.

    こちらの惨めな三人は迷いですから、謙虚に先生の啓発を要求します。宜しく御願い致します。

    EDIT: the tone was not meant to be sarcastic but re-reading I see it can be misinterpreted that way. Really, I'm just curious to know what your tagline means!



  • @takatori said:

    What are you using to translate that gives something else?
    I suspect Google Translate, specifying the language instead of letting it choose.


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