Designing for the most common use cases: sometimes the outliers really do bite

In my job as a software user interface designer,  I  try to design for the most common use cases — so that the most frequent (or most important) are the ones that are easiest to accomplish.  Sometimes I really do decide that a user has to go to another screen  make additional clicks to get a rare task completed.

With this in mind, I worked with the people installing our hot tub a few years ago. The Sales person recommended that we put it as close to the house as possible. “The closer to the house, the more often used” was his adage.  So we decided to place it about 4 feet from the “human” (not car) garage door.

It worked well for several years. Our favorite time of year to sit in the tub is winter. We get a great view of the starts, and there’s nothing like  sitting in the tub and watching light snowflakes fall.

Until this winter.

hottub1 hottub2

We just had too much snow. And no place to put it.  I dreaded cleaning off the hot tub, and the reward of sitting it in almost did not make up for it.

I questioned whether I’d made the right decision to put it just behind the garage. Especially when snow from the roof fell on the path I had just cleared to the tub.  This winter, the location was bad.  And I was really annoyed.  I had to pause and think about the other, less harsh winters and how we hand’t had such an issue. I am sure that many users of the software I’ve designed have felt similar emotions when they’d have to go to a different area for preferences, or find an “Advanced” button.

In the long run, the placement of the hot tub has been good compared to the 10 years that we’ve been using it.  It was worth the annoyance of the snow this winter.

I hope that most of the users can understand that when it comes to an annoying moment or two when using software.

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  1. #1 by Mat Newman on April 21, 2015 - 12:37

    “Outliers” … that’s the definition of what we always spoke about, right? 😉

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