scribbles tagged ‘user experience’


Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 | tags: , , ,  | ErrorThe second time that I tried to login to my ‘’ account this error message was presented and the experience hung Firefox.

How long have Microsoft been designing sign-in processes? How many products have they produced that require a secure sign in? How many user experience experts do they employ – how big is their archive on user experience research?

And this error detection and messaging is the best they can come up with?

That’s pathetic – with no imaginable excuse

Just think about this message from a users perspective – what to I do next?

  • browser back button?
  • navigate to the sign in page using a bookmark or URL?

Then repeat the sign-in action that produced thid error in the first place? Believe that doing the same thing twice wont produce the same error from a computerised system? I can think of several different ways that this service could have enabled me to do this, my only natural troubleshooting approach, in an easier way. For example, provide a nice friendly “Try again” button. An apology or empathetic sound would be a nice additional extra. I find “ouch” is working quite well with me at the moment. If Microsoft are serious about shifting from pre-packaged products to operating online services they are going to have to start using the knowledge of their user experience experts

Hall of shame for

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the blue flash of colonel panic

Sunday, January 13th, 2013 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

Blue Screen of DeathThe Blue flash of colonel panic is not a military award, one of the X-men,  X-women, a Transformer, or other superhero.

Windows 7 scary classic!

The file dump from Windows 7 “Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD)” happens so quickly that we  rush to capture an digital image for posterity because maybe there will be a generation of computer users that have never see a blue screen. I hope so.

You can see the blue screen paparazzi in the reflection on an old Lenovo laptop.  The windows 7 message is already teasing the user with more text than they can possibly read in the time it’s displayed! Squinting at the photograph I saw the phrase “BIOS updates” – a phrase that produces a mild form of the gagging reflex.

Windows 8 is succinct, readable, understandable and less SCARY!

The message has changed for Windows 8, it looks like a more graceful failure message because it has larger, more readable, and understandable text. It looks like they’ve actually written it for the normal people that will see it rather than for the developers. They no longer mention “Caching and shadowing”, “removing or disabling components” or the gaggable “Bios updates”.  I wonder whether it’s still a ‘Blue Flash’. Excellent user experience enhancements.


the blue flash of colonel panic
2 votes rating 5

6 bits of fabulous banter »

this twitting lark

Sunday, December 9th, 2012 | tags: , ,  |

twitterRecently my employer asked for my Twitter address, to publish my tweets on their website. Other colleagues admitted to not tweeting, or suggested that our employer really wouldn’t want to publish their tweets. As wendy, I’ve dabbled but not really been drawn in.

What to do? Should I start using Twitter with my real ‘professional’ name. Luckily the name was available. There are only 2 of us with my real name and an online presence, the other person is a teenager in small town USA. I bagged our name on Twitter. But the big problems still haven’t been solved

  • Should I twit? And how long should I spend twitting if I do?
  • Who do I want to read my twits?
  • Do I have to use a spell-check on all my tweets to avoid irritating those people who can’t see my conceptual wood because of my grammatical trees?
  • What should I twit about?
  • What do professional tweeters, who are published on their employers websites, do?
  • What sort of ‘voice’ should I use? Directive? Cheeky? Subversive?

Do you think I’ll ignore all these tricky questions or other?

What have you done, and why’d you do it?

this twitting lark
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kilt wickednesses

Monday, December 3rd, 2012 | tags: , , ,  |

Kilted guestsOwning a kilt is not all about a big song and dance. There are some sneaky little down sides to the experience which I suspect many a non-kilt wearer is wise to.

These are the reasons why I haven’t yet bought a woollen kilt, they:

  • are rather itchy (but I could wear thick tights or an underskirt to deal with this)
  • smell of damp wool when it’s raining (don’t wear it outside in the rain)
  • need to be dry-cleaned occasionally (that’s not too expensive and inconvenient)

The main kilt use challenge that I hadn’t anticipated is based on using the kilt with modern sanitary technology – the toilet.

Stop reading now if you have an aversion to toilet talk.

With a normal skirt a girl can simply lift the rear of the skirt and hold it up while taking a seat on the toilet – so the skirt never touches the toilet. Clean and neat. Not so with a kilt. There is so much material in the pleats that no matter where you grab it, the sides fall right back down gain. Cool! But not cool when you want to sit on  the loo without dangling it down the pan.

A kilt works for a squatting position above the pan, or squatting when there is no pan – in the wild where it was originally used.  I’ve adjusted my posture when wearing the kilt in the washrooms over the pan so that I stay standing and flick the kilt op over my back while leaning forward – this lets the wealth of material lie across my back.  This position requires more directional skill during the process than sitting down, but works to keep the kilt clean and out of the way.

you have been warned

kilt wickednesses
2 votes rating 4.5

11 bits of fabulous banter »

kilt virtues

Saturday, December 1st, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

The Farringdon GapAfter several months of wearing a genuine kilt, purchased in Edinburgh (online), I’ve leaned about many of it’s more subtle virtues, it:

  • water repellent:  flicks the rain off the surface layer as you walk – never soaks up water because of the movement designed in. Rather like the water coming off a dog when it shakes itself. This effect is stronger for pure wool kilts (which mine isn’t). It’s suitable for rainy climates.
  • toasty!: is very warm because the pleats make it 3 folds of material thick at most point. Again, this effect if emphasised for a wool kilt. It’s more suitable for cold climates.
  • curvy: demonstrates the comely turn of my calves – whatever it’s made from.
  • adjustable sizes: the wrap-around style means the kilt can fit you as you put-on, or loose, weight. This gives the kilt longevity as a wardrobe item. Excellent! As I approach my 50’s I’m anticipating the onset of a little plumpness and the kilt will stay with me unlike other clothes that might need replacing.
  • swing-tastic: with just a normal walk the back of the kilt swings in a playful way. With a flick of the hips it’s even more fun, and spinning around? Well! It’s a must-do activity in a kilt.

Friends have commented that very few people can ‘pull-off’ wearing a kilt, but I am one of them. I can pull it off while keeping it on. I think everyone should have a kilt, it should be a standard part of everyone’s wardrobe because it is quite simply –


kilt virtues
3 votes rating 5

3 bits of fabulous banter »

listening at high speed

Sunday, July 8th, 2012 | tags: , , ,  |

Oxfam art nouveau shop frontHe spoke with floods of enthusiasm but without punctuation. Goodness knows how air made it’s way INTO his lungs:

Would you like a bag Ive got a bag Ive got a bag thats just for you its an em and ess bag see

His enthusiasm and personal approach drew me into a large smile then the mention of M & S almost prompted a LOL. Ah yes, I’m a woman of a certain age. The age where women are expected to start shopping at M & S. He continued his stream of thoughts, picking up my book of London pictures and flicking through the pages to look at them.

As he talked I realised that the ‘Lemmy’ look was completely misleading:

That’s a very nice book. Beautiful pictures. Have you been there? (points at Parliament). Its very good. It was done by Pull Gin.

Wendy: Pugin?

Yes. He died when he was forty. He fitted a whole life into 30 years. He did Gothic. He did all of Gothic. If it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t have Gothic. He went mad. Have you been to Windsor castle? That’s good too. Did you know they had a fire there? My dad helped rebuild it. He’s a carpenter. He saw Prince Harry and Prince William. They went to the school that’s there, near windsor.

Wendy: Eton?

Yes. They looked like penguins

Wendy: In their black and white school uniform?

Yes. It must be nice to be rich. I’d like to be rich. But I like being me it’s ok not being rich. I dont want to be them they have a lot of things to do.I like working here.

Will you come back again? Will I see you again?

A queue had started to form behind me, I was impressed by how quickly he reacted to a queue forming. He clearly understood that this shouldn’t happen and he clearly enjoyed talking to me. I was very glad that I hadn’t been in a hurry because taking the time to listen to his child like enthusiasm was very refreshing

Wendy: Yes. I’ll come back, it’s been nice to meet you, have a good day, bye bye

listening at high speed
1 vote rating 5

4 bits of fabulous banter »

reading problem on Google reader

Monday, March 5th, 2012 | tags: , ,  |

Just incase you thought eveything was running smoothly, here is internet failure of the day

Google Reader button text never arrived…

I waited ….  then wrecklessly pressed the unlabelled button…

It turned out to be the settings button. Google trying to hide its settings on the day it merged it’s privacy policies to share my use data across services?  Unlabelling a setting button on the day I want to change  settings

Spooky or cunning? You decide…

reading problem on Google reader
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Haven’t you done it yet?

Monday, January 9th, 2012 | tags: , , ,  |

Southern Electric harassmentSouthern Electric sent 3 identical text messages

All sent within one hour. Despite my

  • overwhelming need to please others (ahem)
  • effort to dash back home and read my electricity metre (sspppppllllltrrrr)

I failed to comply with their instructions promptly enough to avert this repeated messaging eperience. Like McAfee, Southern Electric appear dedicated to using modern technology to harass me, uneccessarily

Tush and hurumph



Haven’t you done it yet?
1 vote rating 5

2 bits of fabulous banter »

McAfee is a desktop BULLY!

Saturday, January 7th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

McAfee bullies its way onto my desktopMcAfee thinks that I need a shortcut on my desktop for quick access to it’s internet security software.

I disagree because I:

  1. can easily find McAfee with one-click from the desktop  from a system tray icon- the desktop shortcut is redundant
  2. NEVER need one-click quick access to McAfee – when it isn’t already open
  3. keep a clean desktop – it has no shortcuts or documents on it. I find this aesthetically pleasing and it doesn’t interfere with what I’m actually doing

But McAfee is not content to simply disagree with me, it proactively bullies me! – everytime I delete the desktop shortcut – it REPLACES it!!!!!   This is worse than merely ignoring my request – this is reversing my request, ignoring me with knobs on!

Luckily, I’m prepared to spend time playing around in software settings, so I set off to find the “Don’t automatically place a shortcut cut on the desktop” setting in the main program.  Guess what? There isn’t one!!!!!! It take a lot longer to find out that something doesn’t exist, then to find that it does, because it requires a complete, exhaustive, search. That makes me 700 exclaimation marks ANGRY!!!!!!!

Maybe I can suggest to McAfee that they change this poor user experience, or maybe they can tell me how to remove the pesky, unnecessary, irritating, shortcut. A trip to the McAfee website might help. What do you think?

I had to install “Citrix Gotoassist” before I could chat to my “representative”. If this software is an integral part of the McAfee service then it should be pre-installed with the application and available from within the application. This would reduce the number of technical hoops that the wendy has to jump through when she needs support. It would also reduce the time taken to get first-time support.

My representative told me that the design team are working on an improvement that will be included in the next automatic update. Excellent.

If McAfee had employed user experience experts to review their software they would never have made such a basic software design error in the first place.

My security software should be inobtrusive, it should be there and accessible. It should not be bullying me and requiring me to install extra components before answering my support questions. Generally a very poor show by McAfee


McAfee is a desktop BULLY!
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S is for Scutage

Friday, August 19th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

Berkshire Records Office Receptionist (BROR):What are you looking for?

Wendy: Um….history… …nothing in particular… …just browsing….  …um…….what have you got that’s good?

BROR: We’ve got lots of maps, even before the Ordnance Survey started

Wendy: Oh! that sounds good, I like maps, I’ll look at the maps

Large filing cabinates skirt the windows of the records office. Microfiche’s mount rows of dustless, grey, formica tables against the windowless walls. A large table holds the map-drawers down in the middle of the room. Can you tell I was getting a bit excited by it all?

At University in 1983 we had to book time using one of the 3 Microfiche machines – grubbied from thousands of sparingly washed students fingers.  Here there are sparkling rows of them, unused! My gleeful gawping was quickly interrupted

BRO librarian: what are you looking for?

Wendy: I’d like to just browse, your colleague suggested maps…   ….Reading’s Quaker history is interesting too…

The librarian looked disconcerted, I was getting disconcerted. He latched onto my Quaker suggestion and pointed me to the local records subject index filing cabinates. The drawer made a pleasing, heavy, swish sound as he opened it. He suggested looking under “Q” for Quakers or “S” for Society of friends. No hint of my ancient PhD on finding files in electronic filing systems had seeped into this librarians awareness. I smiled and resisted the urge to raise his awareness.



(The sound of my brain spasming within my cranium confines)

Index cards. Hand-typed in courier-font. Lined cards where the typing didn’t sit on the lines. Cards where one card is the index for multiple items – so it’s expensive to add new stuff in the right order. Thrilling!  The colour returned to my face with a big smile.   I didn’t need to find anything, this card system was enough to keep me happy for hours, days, possibly years if they don’t upgrade it. I wonder if they have any part time or volunteer jobs…..

The librarian noticed my smile and politely took his leave to help another lady, who was clutching a handful of cards.  I tucked into the “S“s – Settlement, Scutage, Sheriffs, Slavery, Suffragettes…

The Librarian returned about an hour later.  My hands still deep in the yellowing index cards

BRO librarian: are you doing ok?

Wendy: Oh yes! YES! I’ve found out lots of lovely stuff. I’d never heard of Scutage, Quietus or Lugg before now!

He beamed a lovely smile and grew quietly animated as he showed me how to use the index card reference numbers to track down the physical location of an item in a herd of big folders. To practice I picked a card titled “Services, Personal” where in 1396 a married couple had sold themselves in return for the things they needed to live – a home and a place to keep their sheep

The afternoon slip-slided away on paper cards labelled with “S”

An adult version of Sesame Street “S”exploration

S is for Suffragettes

S is for Scutage
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crapper quality criteria

Monday, July 25th, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

shorty by the doorWe’ve already established that I have a healthy interest in the design, reference to, and use of Toilets.

So you can imagine my excitement when  Ms. Scarlet recently introduced a series of blog posts called the “Friday Flush. Scarlet will be the ‘mystery shopper’ in loos all over the South West and beyond. Excellent! As part of this  investigative journalism Scarlet has invited commenters to suggest assessment criteria for the loos being investigated.  I was having so much fun with thinking of criteria I think I’ve probably gone a little over the top, what do you think?

Aroma intensity (none <-> faint-inducing)
Aroma type (pleasant <-> acrid)
Discoverability (hidden with no signs – entrance embarressingly visible)
Drafts (Gale force 9 <-> still)
Drying technology (bring your own  <-> fresh fluffy towels provided)
Functionality (incomplete <-> swish)
Mould factor (none <-> suspicious stuff growing all over the show)
Price (free <-> entry turn style requires exact cash)
Privacy (airtight and sound-proofed  <-> ankles and feet exposed and splashes clearly audible)
Resources (bring your own <->plush)
Space ( breath in <-> synchronised wheel-chair choreography is a realistic possibility)
Sociability (one at a time please <-> sofa’s and social games provided)
Sparkle (matt <-> bum-fluff refelction)
Splash factor (dry <-> soaked)
Style (dead rat <-> yummy)
Temperature (Ice on the water <-> Oven)
Washing (taps/fawcetts  dont work <-> they even have a b-day!)
Wit (no smiles <-> laughed my pants-off)

crapper quality criteria
1 vote rating 1

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when does persistence become harassment?

Sunday, May 15th, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

Facebook is determinedFacebook is determined to suggest that I buy high healed shoes, loose weight and look younger. Sometimes all 4 advertisements are about weightloss. I always mark them as offensive because I have a healthy weight and lack of obsession with dieting.

Perhaps facebook should include BMI (Body Mass Index) as a field in people’s personal information so that it doesn’t irresponsibly promote dieting to people who are underwieght.

As you’ve probably noticed, I am repeatedly annoyed by the fact that Facebook perpetually ignores my responses to the controls it provides for rating these adverts. I tell facebook that I find dieting, and female conformity (make-up etc) advertisements offensive. What’s the point of asking me if they are going to ignore my responses. Given that they ignore my feedback the adverts feel like harrassment.

when does persistence become harassment?
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tinkle tinkle tinkle

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

servant call systemTyntesfield house has a bell-pull system to call servants. At the foot of the servant’s stairwell each bell is labelled with its location. I was surprised to see that nearly all the bells are the same size and shape.

They sound the same, they look the same.

Servants had to look at the bell moving then read the room description beneath to work out where they should go.

tinkle tinkle tinkle
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Read dating people

Saturday, February 19th, 2011 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

The evening started with a £3 fee, a sticky name-tag, an empty-crib-sheet for notes, two opposing rows of 10 chairs, and a glass of wine. The organiser, Laura, recognised me by my bookMervyn Peake’sLetters from a lost uncle

Soon the evening was buzzing with quick animated talk as we used our 2 minute timed slots to promote our favourite book to each other. 20 people, each with 2 minutes to entice another person to read their favourite book. At the end of the 40 minutes we all voted for the book we liked-best.

A fascinating cross section of books, people and Library staff. All personable, quirky and good natured. And me. Organising this diverse collection of literary enthusiasts is a challenge. The Reading Central library team failed with flare and  improvised with charming grace.

For people that want a novel introduction to a range of books, to meet local people, and have a good swig of wine thrown in, this is an excellent event.

4 smiles: Ratings explained

Read Dating crib sheet

Two minute book promotion techniques varied from reading 4 pages of bulleted notes on a book I’d been given as an 18th birthday present, read, and loved (Lynne’s Gormenghast trilogy) to Marie Claire’s brief, almost self-apologetic, statement ‘Its like a soap opera, its about people‘ (Men from the boys by Tony Parsons).

Adam produced a polished, yet souless, advocation of Wuthering Heights. If I hadn’t already read the book his persepctive ofnHeathcliffe as misunderstood by the general reading public would have put me off reading it. Adam had no sense of tailoring his delivery to the audience, to me. His delivery felt cold, dispassionate.

Arathy bought the book that had changed her life ‘The science of self realisation‘ by his divine grace Srila Prabhupada. Ernestly she showed me chapter headings and managed to talk in a way that I found difficult to follow. I tried asking her questions about how it had changed her life but she didn’t manage to give me an insight into her revelations, her life before and her life after the change. I was pleased for her discovery but not persuaded that this book would engage me.

During a mid-session break I uncovered snippits of these people’s lives, an emigrant from Australia, an unemployed teenager from Henley-on-Thames, and a mother who’s children had recently left home learning German to fill the gap. No-one asked about me. Even in the midst of lively conversations my ability to feel invisible seeps in.

Read dating people
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exam preparation

Thursday, February 10th, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

Information navigation - Sam's organisationwhen I asked Pat if I could photograph the information navigation system Pat was using in preparation for the PRINCE2 practioners open-book exam, Pat blushed and said ‘I can be a bit anal sometimes

Pat’s desk was equally well ordered, there was an elegance and functionality to the layout

I sat between Pat and Sam. After photographing Pat’s book and desk I asked Sam if I could photograph Sam’s book and desk

Information navigation - Pat's organisationSam smiled, giggled a little, and said yes. Sam spent time colour coding the highlighted sections, reading and highlighting, tearing-up post-it notes to strips then placing them on pages as we encountered information. As the course progressed the post-it notes became creased and were moved around, re-ordered. Sam’s desk looked a little hap-hazard to the outsider but in reality there was clear order and functionality to the process being used.

My book? No highlights, no highlighter pen, no post-it notes, page markers or even pencil notes.


My plan was not to spend any time finding stuff in the book during the 2 and a half hour exam, not to create and remember colour-coding systems.  Why not? My goal was to understand the book’s contents to a level that alleviates the need for reference and developing a reference system beyond the existing contents list, index and glossary. Novel approach for this course where the instructors actually told us what to highlight! A risky approach because there is more information in the book than I could learn in the time I’ve been studying. Not marking-up the book was partly a motivation to learn the contents.

To my amazement – I PASSED! without opening the book in an open book exam! Now many people might say that’s just

stubborn and silly?

You know me well!

exam preparation
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4 bits of fabulous banter »


Thursday, February 3rd, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

The BladeA persistent challenge for people that use search engines to look for things in Reading (Berks, UK) is that the search engines don’t even try to differentiate between Reading the place and reading the activity. Consequently, any search results contain lots of obviously irrelevant results that are about reading (rhymes with feeding). The human searcher has to skim read all of the contents to mentally filter-out the irrelevant results.

To help reduce the irrelevant reading (rhymes with needing) search results I normally include the local county, Berkshire (rhymes with Bark sure), in the search terms. This helps a bit, but not enough.  Maybe Reading tourist encouragers,  could lobby the search engine providers to introduce novel, useful, search refinements, like

  • Include word case in the search parameters and assume words starting with capitols indicate proper nouns in both web pages and search terms. Unfortunately, my random use of capitolisation means this may not work for me.
  • a ‘Rhymes with’ feature where likely options are provided for selection. The options could include words to account for variations in regional accents. I’d have such fun with that kind of option, and it would make all my searches for Reading (rhymes with wedding) both efficient and fun!

Though if leading (Rhymes with Reading and reading) was an option I’d probably pick it without realising…

1 vote rating 5

8 bits of fabulous banter »

still raving about my washing machine

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

While estolling the virtues of my fabulous new washing machine a local German said

Have you heard of Miele? They’re a German company, they make the best washing machines

wendy: YES!

The Wendy House in the USA came with its own, new Washing Machine. No photograph and I can only vaguely remember it. It was a GE toploader. A big ugly thing with only 3 dials as control, each with 3 settings, I think they were

  • load size (small, medium, large)
  • temperature (cool, medium, hot)
  • spin speed (slow, medium, fast)

Simple design, not much room for making a mistake. Nothing to indicate temperature in a manner that could map to the labels put on clothes, no indication of wash-time, or cycle time. It did have a buzzer alarm that rang when it had finished.

I didn’t feel proud of it, it didn’t feel good to use, I took no pride in my laundry. Blugh. It worked and was very reliable. It lasted all 7 years that I lived in the USA without a hiccup, so I never had an excuse to replace it. But I suspect you know that I missed my European washing machine.

still raving about my washing machine
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knobs and dials

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 | tags: ,  |

MieleThe 2 weeks of laundry build-up, while waiting for my magnificent Miele, has been dealt with quietly, quickly, with economic water consumption. The water-supply to my home is on a meter, I pay for the water that I use so the intelligent water-usage by the Miele will save me pennies and maybe pounds.

The Miele is not beautiful in the modern sense of gentle curves, stylish coloured fonts, innovative control layout. To me it looks ‘retro’ with its simple controls

  • a clearly labeled dial-knob to select a wash based on water-temperature that maps to the temperatures placed on clothes-labels. Material types are suggested by temperature settings
  • clearly labeled buttons for on/off, start, and to toggle through spin options
  • Clear grouping of these controls and displays
  • A light flashes next to the start button when I’ve selected a wash and closed the door – enticing me to press start
  • A light displays the stage of the wash-cycle telling me what is happening now
  • A digital clock counts down the time to the wash being completed
  • The door is almost as big as the drum-size enabling me to put stuff in and pull it out easily

From looking at the controls, and conducting several washes the only thing I haven’t discovered is whether there is a time to delay wash start. Looks like I’ll have to check the user manual. Doh. At least I got my immediate gratification from the knobs, dials, buttons and flashing lights. Sigh.

A quick review of the text-heavy, picture-light, user manual shows that it doesn’t have a delayed-start timing function. This explains why I couldn’t work out how to use a delay start timer from merely twiddling the knobs and dials.

knobs and dials
1 vote rating 5

7 bits of fabulous banter »

buying manufacturers ethos

Sunday, January 30th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

Two men from John Lewis’ electricals (JLE) arrived to take away my defuncted Indesit and replace it with a magnificent miele. Miele’s company slogan is ‘Forever Better’ they build products to last and provide better user experiences. They pass-on the cost of achieving this goal to their customers.  I’d rather not have to replace a washing machine several times in a decade. This machine should last me several decades. Awesome!

The men from JLE  looked at the old Indesit which came with the house 3 years ago. Audible tutting noises….

JLE: its not disconnected. We can’t do anything until its disconnected. I’ll go away and come back in 10 minutes, that should give you time to disconnect it

wendy: Oh, I thought you guys would do that as part of the removal and deliver

JLE: Oh no, that’s a whole different service, that’s installation, we haven’t been instructed to install your machine, you’ll have to do that

wendy: ashame, if the sales-process had offered me disconnection and installation I would probably have bought it

I pull the washing machine out from under the kitchen counter, turn the valves on the hot and cold water supplied to the off position, disconnect the supplies, remove the water-outlet pipe and unplug the machine from the power source. Easy. Didn’t need to pay someone to do that, I’m glad John Lewis’s didn’t sell me that service.

JLE: remember to remove the transport bars before you use it.  If you don’t remove the bars it will break the machine

wendy: transport bars? what are they, where are they? are there any instructions?

JLE: just read the manual miss, its all in the manual, do what it says in the manual

After loading the Indesit onto their trolley, both removal men washed thier hands it my fabulous butler sink. The transport bars hold the drum in place while the machine is being moved. The instructions were clear and easy to follow, within 5 minutes my Miele was connected to power, water supply, water removal pipe and ready to go.  Awesome.

The handbook had lots of user instructions

Did I read them? Did I?

Not yet

buying manufacturers ethos
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4 bits of fabulous banter »

receipt confirmation

Thursday, January 27th, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

SMS text acknowledgementPeople who have recieved one of my hand written letters have all used their phone’s to let me know, on the day the letter arrived. I have recieved texts and phone calls, its lovely. Lovely because they are not automatic, system generated, confirmations. They are exhuberantly happy, personalised, stories which make my day brighter.

Sometimes automating functionality, like message-reciept can remove the communicative properties that add value beyond knowing that, they remove the knowing how. An automated reciept confirmation would let me ‘know that’ the message was recieved but not give me any clue to ‘how’ the person experienced recieving the message.

From the above text I know that the letter recipient recognised my writing before even opening the letter.  She knew it was from me. I can reasonably infer that she was happy at this point before even opeing the letter, then she expresses how enduring this experience is for her. Definitely something worth my doing again. Before phone usage was common, the main way that I knew a letter had arrived was when I recieved a letter written in response, often days, weeks, or months later.

By contrast, here on the blog, I suspect the emotional impact of my writing is less durable. Partly because it isn’t personal. A blog post is for the author or an audience, not for an individual. I only know ‘how’ the post is recieved when people take the time to write a comment or click on the hearts to illustrate that they like it. Many more people read the posts than leave me feedback on how they experienced it.

receipt confirmation
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the word is incompatible

Monday, November 29th, 2010 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

programsI used to have Microsoft Office 2003 installed on Neverland. I haven’t yet bothered putting it in the cupboard because I don’t have the patience to wait for 7 years worth of updates to install. Many of my files are word files, (.doc). When I tried to open them in the Microsoft Works Word processor it didn’t recognise their format, neither did wordpad.


Scritti Politti sang the Word girl

the word is incompatible
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real people

Sunday, November 14th, 2010 | tags: , ,  |

Recently I’ve moved home and contents insurance providers from, you guessed it, Natwest to the Building Society that provides my mortgage. This has increased my coverage, reduced my cost, but best of all I’ve had two fun phonecall with the insurance phone service people who were memorable as real people.

The first lady, Nicola, that produced the quote and posted the documentation told me all about how her cat’s tail set-off her neighbours motion-sensitive alarm. The nieghbour had adjusted the sensor to be above cat height without taking into account her cat’s unusually long tail. Excellent, I found out lots about her neighbour; the history of her doors, all stuff that I didn’t need to know that made me smile. It was wonderful, I didn’t feel like Nicola was getting through a required script as fast as possible to reach a quota. She gave me her name, extension phone number, and told me her working hours while reassuring me that anyone on the help line could help me.

The second chap I spoke to, Sam, after reading the documentation talked to me about his philosophy of life and how things have changed

10 years ago if you smiled at 10 people when you walk down the street, 8 of them would smile back. Nowadays only about 6 people will smile back. A smile doesn’t cost much and it comes back to you

Again, he seemed like he had the space to be himself, I didn’t feel rushed, we made progress but best of all the phone call was enjoyable.

real people
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Large print

Friday, November 12th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

In the Reading town central library, they demonstrate their signage literally. I was left wishing that all signs were large print because my spectacles were not up to standard for the standard print signage.

Large Print

Large print
2 votes rating 4.5

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portraiting iterations

Thursday, November 11th, 2010 | tags: , , , ,  |

Producing a painting is very different from producing high quality software, it also has some key similarities. The similarities stem from the fact that you can’t do something this complicated right the first time, you need to take steps and reflect on how well each step is working, then make changes to improve it. You need to iterate.

Different iterations have a different focus. Below are the iterations for my last portrait, of Jasper. The inspirational photograph is on the left hand side, the 6 iterations move from a sketch on the right to the final version next to the photograph. I planned 4 iterations and had to add one because iteration 4 (the pale one) didn’t work aswell as I’d hoped.

Portrait of Jasper - photo and different painting production stages

Plan: The conceptual work for the painting is done before the sketch; getting to know the subject (Jasper) and the ‘user’ (Jaspers owner) what does the user want from the picture, where would they like to hang it in their home, how do they see the subject? This is the eqivalent of market research, product planning, and conceptual design explorations for a software project

Architecture: The first sketches are of the composition, the placement of features the use of space. No paint. How is the information organised in a way that makes sense. You can see how I made Jasper’s eyes look more upwards and towards the viewer than in the photograph. I wanted Jasper to look more directly at the ‘user’ . This is the ‘Information Architecture’ for a software development project – where is everything in relationship to everything else

Foundations: The first coat of paint is a base, it wont be seen in the final version but it emphasises or mutes the colours on top. For darker areas use a dark base, for brighter colours use a light base. For software this is  equivalent to wireframing the user-journeys through the software. The text may not be accurate, but the general idea of the interactions are in place

Technical investigations: With this painting I tried several techniques that I had never used before such as layering a watery-thin layer of white paint then using a brush to partially remove it, hoping this would create a finer texture impression of fur than I could achieve with a brush. For software projects the developers are often trying out how new technologies that can solve technical challenges and add value to the design. I love watching software engineers get all excited about technical proof of concepts

Filling in the framework: Successive layers add more detailed colour and texture, I had trouble getting the colour-mix to work. Between each coat the artist reflects on how well they are achieving their vision, making adjstments with each coat. Gradually the painting begins to look like the final product. But it’s clumsy, edges are not smooth, features are slightly mishapen, colours are too bright.  For software products this is the production and testing of the code

Fit and finnish: The final level details, this might be a glaze wash over the painting. For software this can be checking the details are consistent, the performance is smooth, the visuals are complete.

Commissions considered…

portraiting iterations
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multifunctional interaction

Monday, November 8th, 2010 | tags: , ,  |

talking to a Microsoft customersoftware developer: do you interact with the customer?

wendy: I talk to people while I watch them use our stuff and give them tips on how to get the most out of using it

My ability to liberally apply single syllable words at work, when multisyllable jargon will do,  is outrageouss. In the photo you see me demostrating how to use the ‘hunt and peck’ keyboard technique. I also have a compulsion to think of people as people rather than income sources (customers)

Naughty me

multifunctional interaction
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designed to disable

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010 | tags: ,  |

Mini Cooper door handleSometimes the price of classic style is an embarressing loss in ease of use. Thomas’s door handles are a nice example. Classic car door handle design from the 60’s. But. There is a reason why this design fell from common use. It’s difficult for a substantial proportion of the population to use.

The dip you can see in the left is a key-entry for unlocking manually with a key. The dip is a pleasing and an enticing place to put your thumb when you grab the handle with one hand. Inside the sturdy chrome handle is a graduated black plastic bar hinged and thinner on the right hand side. To open the door you pull the black plastic bar against the chrome handle. Put your hand around the handle and gently squeeze. Sounds good, looks good.

I expected it to feel good.

I expected a firm gentle squeeze would open the door. It didn’t.  I had to try several times and actually ended up using my body-weight to get enough pressure to open the door. I had trouble every time I tried to open the door. Was the spring action poorly adjusted? Am I a wimp? It was annoying, I expected better from a modern car.

Mini Cooper door handleHow would you grab this handle?

Can you see how the designers had failed to design well for my behavior?

My thumb is on the wrong side. My little finger is grabbing the black plastic bar at its widest point. The widest point is where it’s easiest to get the most leverage to pull to open the door. Alas my pinky wasn’t up to it and I was applying most force with my first finger, near the hinge, where more force is needed. Sigh.

The door handles on the modern Mini are designed for right handed people. That’s a prejudice I could do without.

Mini Cooper door handleThis is how I’ve solved my problem. I place my hand in the gap ‘upside down’ its a less pleasing experience but it opens the door first time. My brothers and many friends are also left handed. If, when I give them a lift, I don’t warn them about this design flaw they often tell me that I’ve left the passenger door locked because they too cannot open the door with their most natural of movements.  I don’t like having to tell my friends and family how to open the passenger door. It’s embarressing for me and for them. How bad is a design when you have to tell people how to open a door, A DOOR! There are lots of different ways BMW could have maintained the look and feel of the original Mini without introducing designs that disabled a substantial proportion of the population.

BMW designed to disable

designed to disable
1 vote rating 5

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time for creative driving

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 | tags: , , , ,  |

Continue to West Street? Where is West Street?

Follow the pink line? What do I do when I get to the junction of High Street and Back lane?

Or should I go the other direction, the way Thomas is facing, away from Back lane?

Time for creative driving

which way?

time for creative driving
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let the squabbling begin

Monday, October 11th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Thunderbird - not playing

Oh! Looks like Mozilla Thunderbird is having a sulk. She’s ignoring me and legitimising the offense by using psuedo-medical jargon – ‘not responding’ to treatment by wendy. Less than 24hrs after putting her in the cupboard.  TUSH!

After reading this message I went in search of a way to  ‘close the exsiting Thunderbird process’ . I’m not used to closing a process and a quick look in the Windows 7 starter task manager confirmed my suspicion that this was pretty scary.  Instead, I decided on the more familiar, easier, way to close something. I closed the only program I knew that I was using at the same time. I closed IE8. Then tried to start Thunderbird.  That worked. That sorted the problem. 

Close IE to fix Thunderbird. Confusing. Two programs that just aren’t playing nicely together, squabbling and leaving me to be doctor and arbitrater. Sigh.

let the squabbling begin
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dumper truck

Sunday, October 10th, 2010 | tags: , , , ,  |

Goodbye Natwest banking



Hello Co-operative Banking

suggesting I 'Dump' my current bank


The subtle differences in the way the companies are can be seen in the promotional designs for their current campaigns. The Natwest prmotion is neat and tidy with photographs of brochures, big old buildings and staff wearing a uniform and name tag. By contrast the Co-op promotion includes an imitation of hand-written text corrections, a childs plastic toy, the colloquial word ‘dump’, and anthropomophises the Bank by refering to it as ‘someone’.

Moving from being treated as a sales opportunity to being recognised as a person feels really good.  The Natwest customer charter, to become the most helpful bank is definitiely an admirable goal that shows they are aware of one of their key shortcomings. They have a long way to go, helpfulness is not something I’d noticed in their recent everyday service. By contrast, the staff at the Co-op actually

  • listened to me
  • asked me sensible questions that I could understand
  • made fun little observations that made me smile and demonstrated the lack of corporate dehumanising of their staff, and 
  • provided understandable advice.


While in the Reading Co-op branch I overheard someone comment on the recruitment poster in the branch suggesting that people dump their old bank :

‘The coop is my old bank – what should I do?

dumper truck
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accidentally uninstall

Friday, October 8th, 2010 | tags: , , , , ,  |

How to get rid of an unused program on Windows 7 Starter

  • I clicked on the ‘control panel’
  • Under ‘adjust your computers settings I clicked on ‘uninstall program’
  • I chose Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 from the list
  • I clicked uninstall program
  • But windows doesn’t want to accept this action without further confirmation, I might not mean it, this might be an accident, do I REALLY want to uninstall this program?
  • I clicked on the ‘yes’ button with extra force to demonstrate my certainty.

Are you sure?


Large and bold, that’s how I felt. That’s what I wanted the button to say. This was no accidental uninstall. 

I wonder how often people do accidentally select something to uninstall, click ‘No’ on this dialog. If it is a genuine problem then fixing should happen before this point, improve the users ability to select the program initially, more information with larger clickable target rather than questioning the users ability to be ‘sure’.

This reminded me of the XP shut down process where you have to choose shutdown at least 2 times before it will actually do what you’ve asked, and only then if some programs haven’t objected to your wishes. Luckily Windows 7 Starter simply shuts down when I ask 

Shutdown Control Hoorah!

accidentally uninstall
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