The other day we had a bug in one of our applications that prevented users from using certain symbols when saving “document” objects in the application. I got a ticket about the bug, so I looked into it and realized when the application was saving the “document” object to the database it would first attempt to write the file on a filer and this is what was failing- the illegal characters were an illegal Windows file name, and when writing to the filer this was failing.

So I call up the user and shared with them the problem- when the document is being saved, the file included is also saved and the characters in the name are illegal file names. “You know- like when you save a file on your desktop and you include a backslash or something”. The user had an “Ah! Yeah, I understand” moment when it immediately made sense with their own experience of using Windows.

Anyway, later I was thinking about why did I do that? Why did I have to explain to the user why their action didn’t work?

Nobody cares why it didn’t work.

Nobody cares about some artificial (as far as the user is concerned) Windows “limitation” on how the file is “supposed” to be named. It should just work.

Usually I am pretty good about thinking from the user experience perspective; yet here I caught myself forgetting for a moment and with developer tunnel-vision. I may care about why it doesn’t work- I need to most of the time- but nobody else does, and they shouldn’t.

On a slightly unrelated note, user interfaces often suffer from developer’s view of the world. I recently heard a quote I liked regarding user interface design: “The user interface is like a joke- if you have to explain it, it’s not that good”.