How long before technology gets me throwing my Toys out the Pram?

Toys out the Pram

As a developer and techie I consider myself patient and logical and good at getting stuff to work.  I also think I’m good at understanding the needs of my users.  Now that I have started reviewing horse technology (bits of tech attached to or pointed at horses) I have switched sides and I was not the kind of user I have been developing for.  I don’t read the instructions, I expect it to just work and when it doesn’t, it is,  of course, the fault of the technology, not mine!

So I have devised a new measure, “Toys out the Pram Time” of TotPT, as a reminder to myself of the users I am developing for.  It is the amount of time until I lose patience and start, figurative or literally, throwing things.

Toys out the Pram Time - 1 day

Phoebe the Developer - I have a great deal of patience for technology I am developing myself, it’s my job, I don’t expect anything to work first time.  My patience isn’t endless however. After a day stuck on the same problem having googled, stackoverflowed, read the documentation, had another cup of tea etc.  I am likely to be heard loudly threatening my computer and every bit of hardware attached to it with destruction in long and painful ways.  

Toys out the Pram Time - 1 hour

Phoebe the Techie -  If I have a new piece of kit that does a new job - a new storage device, a streaming video system or a bit of smart tech for the home, It has about an hour to start cooperating before I give up but I will read the manual carefully, do some googling and try restarting a few times in order to get it working.

Toys out the Pram Time - 1 minute

Phoebe the Worker - Woe betide the tech that does not work quickly if it is not essential to a job that needs doing.  To my surprise, I have very little patience indeed for horse tech products.  I may be prepared to spend more than a minute but I need to get 3 horses ridden before dark, I’m in the yard and don’t want to have to go back to the house for another cable or instruction manual.  For me to use horse tech, it has to be easy and intuitive of it just won’t get used.  

I note that my mental age decreases with each scenario.  Phoebe the Worker with a 1 minute TotPT seems unable to read (manuals or even emails) so that a perfectly simple instruction that would be understood by Phoebe the Developer is completely ignored.  Phoebe the Worker is not even going to ask for help, it would take too long.

These different scenarios can be summarised by asking How much time pressure is the user under when they use my product?  And the smaller the number, the simpler the interface needs to be.

I got a sharp reminder of this recently when some software I had written to calculate dressage scores was used at a competition.  I thought I have everything set up for them, had it tested and when they reported an error at the start, I got straight on and fixed it.  As I heard nothing more, I assumed everything was going ok but in fact they had given up.  They had a very short TotPT, they were under pressure to get hundreds of scores done and just did not have time to try anything else. I am redesigning the system to have just 3 buttons on the home page!

I suspect that IoT devices in general have a lower than expected TotPT time and I will be pondering how to use the range of possible interfaces - visual, audible and haptic to make them quicker to use.