Saturday, 24 May 2014

Subconscious interaction

There are two types of people in this world, technology natives and technology immigrants. The first have grown up with technology, while the second have been introduced to it. While there are many ways to identify a native, the easiest way is to watch how he or she handles dialogue boxes. Immigrants will always read every word on a dialogue box, sometimes even hovering the mouse pointer underneath the word they are currently reading ("Would __ you __ like __ to __ save __changes __ to __ 'letter to Mr Jones written on 22 May 2014 revision 2 (2).2.docx'"), while natives subconsciously hit the desired option after only a glance at the text and buttons. "How did you know you had to press that button?" I sometimes get asked by an immigrant. I think about it, and work out I have no idea -- it's just a natural action like taking a step forward or chewing a mouthful of food. It's actually more difficult if I consciously think about it.

But then there are some really, really badly worded dialogues. And when I encounter these I feel like an immigrant. For example, once an FNB ATM has given you cash it will display "Select yes if you prefer a receipt for this transaction". What really rankles about this is that I can only imagine how many board meetings went into the design of this one dialogue. "Wait, we need to save paper, so let's try to discourage people from having a receipt. You need to opt-in to getting a receipt, rather than opt-out." "OK, but that's a bit confusing. It needs to be clear, as not everyone will speak English as a first language. Imagine if they got a receipt when they wanted not to. That would be a calamity". "I agree, let's get some more caviar in here. I've just polished this lot off."

Either "Would you like a receipt?" got rejected, or was never thought of in the first place. Every single time I see "Select yes if you would prefer a receipt for this transaction" I have to think about it. I stand in front of the ATM like an idiot, reading and rereading the simple message, while my brain switches over from subconscious to concious control, trying to figure out if I need to press Yes or No. A simple "Would you like a receipt?" or even just "Receipt?" would prevent this, and in an ideal world where that was the case, I would currently have an extra several minutes of my life to spend however I wanted. In fact I would have more time than that, because in addition to the several seconds for each use of an FNB ATM, I would also have the time taken to write this post.

</rant>

1 comment:

  1. Hahaha.
    "Select yes if you would prefer a receipt for this transaction" I have to think about it. I stand in front of the ATM like an idiot, reading and rereading the simple message, while my brain switches over from subconscious to concious control, trying to figure out if I need to press Yes or No.

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I'm far away from home in this country called "Europe". I'm studying towards a Master's in Computational Linguistics (I think - this might help: https://xkcd.com/114/). I write about web applications and Python and other things that you may find interesting (considering you got this far).