Sliced bread, UX from a parent's perspective

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whole slice of bread vs pieces of sliced bread

My wife works week-end shifts once a month. This morning was a sunday morning of one such week. The girls had ate when I got up at 7am, but the youngest had barely touched her slice of bread with brown cheese (her favorite). My better half left and I sat down with the 2yo. I lovingly, although a bit grumpy, told her to eat up.

She just looked at me dumbfounded. "Come on", I said, and she started whining a bit. Now, I didn't start to yell, but I tried most of the different dominant and didactic ways of parenting. "You need to eat your food so you get big and healthy." It ended up with her telling me to go away. She turned her back on me, and thus we sat there in silence for a while.

She's almost three now, so we kind of expect her to be more like her 6yo sister and take bites off a slice of bread. But I thought maybe, just maybe she needs to be pampered a bit more before she gets big. So I pulled off a few soft bits still having cheese on them. (She eats some of the cheese of course.) "You want smaller pieces, maybe"? She turns around, grins, and pops a piece into her mouth. She ate everything but the crust. Of course this trick isn't new to me, but as I said, we've got expectations. We're past those early steps.

I tried again at lunch. I split the slice into eight small- but still a wee bit more than bite-sized pieces. This time around, I asked whether the pieces were the right size. She were asking questions like "why do you eat a big one?" and "why no cheese?". We were having a constructive, learning discussion and exploration of the process of eating sliced bread. I'm sure she'll soon be moving into whole-sliced-bread territory, but she doesn't quite yet fit that persona perfectly. This all made me think about how software might or might not be used at all.

Countless times big fancy systems have been introduced in organizations as silver bullets designed to solve all problems. They're mandatory for everyone (even the janitor). But the UX simply sucks! It's close to, if not impossible to do the right thing. Trying to do anything is as unwieldy as holding, and taking bites off a sliced bread is for my daughter. (Sticky fingers is the worst!) Management might get a few grunts and moans from their closest, but the majority of employees might just not use it. They'll just like management less than they might have before. Management will hopefully know, though, and might - if they're good management - fix it. (AKA. throw the @#ยค%& out)

How about on the web? If you find an unwieldy webpage, how long do you stay to "learn" it? How's your impression of the company who owns the site? Will you tell your friends? Can we detect that people aren't using a site because of things like these? Do we know what they're saying about the company? Can we get to know, and use it for constructive and educational exploration of better UX And software?

I'm sure y'all do all the smart suff already, but I liked the metaphor.

This article was meant as a tongue-in-cheek look at parenting and software, but I'm sure there's something of value buried in there.


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