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Do You Speak Human, Software?

A while ago we shared some thoughts about software apps as the living systems. This concept opens up a huge space for insights in human-friendly software design.

As software apps evolve over time, they are getting closer and closer to people. The challenge here is diversity of people’s minds. The diversity of contexts in which people live and act. Given the diversity of mental extensions, something more important is always in common. It’s about emotions. Emotions can do a lot more than logical reasoning. Remember Apple fans, buying more of Apple products out of “I just like it”. Emotions are responsible for these just-like-its, when there’s no rational need to cut a $XXX, or even a $XXXX,  hole in someone’s bank account.

We feel very good when a software app tells us, “thanks for taking your time to tell us what you think” (that’s what Skype does). We feel good when a software app cares for us by saving our time with clear instructions, what-to-do’s and error messages. Lame language can be a source of bad mood, it throws people out of their flow, instead of helping. Visuals and words create this interactive landscape together.

Here’s the list of basic human emotional needs:

accepted
acknowledged
admired
appreciated
approved of
believed in
capable
cared about
challenged
clear (not confused)
competent
confident
forgiven
forgiving
free
fulfilled
heard
helped
helpful
important
in control
included
listened to
loved
needed
noticed
powerful
private
productive / useful
reassured
recognized
respected
safe / secure
supported
treated fairly
trusted
understanding
understood
valued
worthy

As I tried to map them to digital experiences, it turned out that software could cater for about 60% of them (what’s your take?).

Let’s see how software does this job.

Mint

Mint is a personal finance tool. They pay much attention to the feelings of safety and security.

“Remember kids, safety first” is a strong emotional caller. The lock with the mint leaf is smoother, but still emotional. The part on bank-level security appeals to logical reasoning.

Next one:

The ban sign says it all. There’s no real $$ here, rest assured, no one will touch your money, including you.

You’re cared about when you see this:

The concept of mint (mint leaf) is very smart. Which association do we usually have with mint? It’s something comforting, soothing, something that makes us free from worries and anxiety. That’s a great emotional token for a personal finance app.

Trello

What I liked right away about Trello, the collaboration tool, is the Husky dog icon. Well, maybe it’s not exactly Husky, but I like those dogs, and for some reason I thought it’s a Husky:

What I liked even more is the message of serving humans. The 500.000 number looks reassuring to a new user.

Trello means business, and cares for your time. You don’t linger even an extra second on their sign-up page:

Speaking of sign-up and login pages, bad captures totally kill good emotions. They make you reload and reload the capture image, and still wouldn’t let you login. You can live with a login capture, as an app usually remembers you. But anyone who has a capture on their sign-up page is committing a slow suicide:

Back to Trello and to their sign-up process. When I see this:

I have a mixed feeling of approval, empathy and regret. Here’s why. I can see that these guys are trying to know my real name, that’s why they have put up a message about the full name length. But I know too well (as we have a sign-up form on our web-site) that if someone wouldn’t want to give their name, they wouldn’t give it, and this note would be of no use.

Their account activation message:

I feel reassured and in control.

As Trello welcomes me, I can see that they have taken one step further in serving humans. They want to guide based on how people evaluate their previous experience with collab tools:

Evernote

The most emotionally insecure app that I’ve tried lately is Evernote. They have a good message on their web-site, but what you see inside the app and during the sign-up is confusing.

First, the elephant logo:

I don’t understand what an elephant has to do with my notes and images put to one place. Maybe it is supposed to be a symbol of everlasting wisdom. But there’s no emotional appeal for the app from my side. Elephants are nice, but they don’t fit in here.

Evernote’s sign-up is severe like a Quaker. Here’s their unhelpful “user name not available” message:

It says nothing to me, accept that the name is not available. No hint on which available mods I can try. I had to mess a bit with figures and underscores, until I got this:

Evernote uses machine language. There’s no feeling that you’re welcome here.  Sometimes it’s the opposite, sign-up forms can be too off-hand. I don’t want to be tapped on the shoulder like that guy, for any single line:

Back to Evernote: it had even more confusion in store as I tried to make the first note. Here’s the screenshot:

The Set URL context action. Which URL? For what? I typed something in there, but when I tried to access the note later – no success.  Then Done and Auto Save on top. Hmm. Why Auto Save when there’s Done there? Which goes first? Should I rely on Auto Save, or should I click Done? Maybe Done is supposed to work when Auto Save is off? Then why keep it there when Auto Save is on? Questions like these rushed through my head, and the app did not offer any answers.

The “Set the note’s location” screen was a bummer. Am I supposed to know the latitude and longitude of my whereabouts in every new location? Maybe they have the auto define location feature somewhere (I can’t imagine that they don’t), but I was not offered this option, and guessing the latitude/longitude is too challenging a task for simply taking a note.

I don’t think I will be using Evernote. It’s too confusing and insecure. Well, they must have more options than taking just notes, as they position themselves as “capture anything- remember everything”, and maybe the other features in Evernote work great, but I don’t care now, as my first emotions about this app were negative.

Ebay

Now let me show you my favourite. What if I forgot password? This piece from Ebay is a beauty:

Sensible display of case sensitivity. I like words and everything about playing on words, so it’s like a candy to me.

We have so many exciting options to make software speak human language. We can do it with visuals and words, as long as we keep this thin line balance, where software approaches people gently. Like a professional English butler.

Related articles:

Why People Don’t Understand How to Use Your Software?

Help People Understand How to Use Your Software

The Paradigm of Project Management Tools

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