Thursday, November 20, 2014

Could you please stop upgrading me in the wrong direction?

It keeps on happening; I go into an online service that I've had wrestled into a functional position (sorry no time to get anything beyond the first working position) and it's had the i-pad nanny makeover. You know the look I mean. Big dumb buttons that can be stabbed by an inattentive finger. Data visualisations that explain the exact knowledge that somebody thinks you want to know in graphs with rounded corners and kinder-executive tones. More options on things that don't matter, often including the menace that is draggable modules, because the certainty of having something in same place on the page after you were interrupted by a phonecall is so last century.

In some ways its nice. We can feel the old programmes (web based, Java, etc.) crumbling. But like employees who had found the exact ways to keep our rooms at a perfect ambient temperature despite the sticking windows and leaky radiators, when we're sent to the new building with its automatic temperature controls and self-opening windows it doesn't feel like an upgrade. It feels like being asked to spend the rest of your life being uncomfortably hot and not being able to fix it. 

Three months later you have the trick of finessing the automatic windows and know the bits of the office where nobody sits without a coat on, and it is better than the old place, with its broken door and the wasps in the roof. But those three months didn't seem like an upgrade, and you weren't especially excited by all the new things you had to learn. The gain was too marginal; the learning scale too steep.

It is increasingly the case that upgrades and redesigns are actually transitions. They come online because the old item is too damaged, can't cope with modern hackspam, relied on something that's been lost in another upgrade on another system, had one fix too many on top of all of the other fixes.  The sites and systems are seldom honest about this; amazing redesigns and fantastic upgrades and new features!!! interrupt me so regularly now I feel little more than a small stab of annoyance when invited to view a five page introduction to the obvious way to use the new page. When asked to trawl through five videos in order to try and find out where a useful function has gone when the answer is it's not possible to implement under the new system - well, that's a bit more than a stab.

Not that there's much that can be done about all this. I'm absolutely aware that the developers have no time for anything beyind the first working position either.