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Monthly Archives: November 2006

Believe it or not, but my Dad seems to have reduced his usage of Yahoo! because he cannot come to terms with the new UI layout of the main page. "This Yahoo.com has become useless, I can’t find anything on this page anymore. Where have the old links disappeared?" was his question to me. Frustration was showing on his face as he posed the question to me.

Now we all like to tout the Web 2.0 and companies like Yahoo! have promptly upgraded their UI to be in sync with Web 2.0 – The gradients, the DTHML transitioning effects, the AJAX stuff and what not. If you ask me, Yahoo’s change is a welcome change. I find the new site visually pleasing and maybe a bit more easy to use as well.

Being in my 20s, and having been brought up in the computer age,  I can adapt quickly. But what about people who started using computers when they were 40 years old? As it is, using a computer is an overwhelming experience for them. If you are at 40, your brain has already been clogged with tonnes of information, and most importantly your learning ability slows down considerably. People have to take pains to remember how to log in to a system, type a mail and then send it. It might seem trivial to you and me, but it’s an everyday ordeal for them. If something changes in this set routine of sending mail, say, the server times out, they feel uneasy. Or worse, if you ask them to throw out a costly Microsoft Outlook and replace it with Mozilla Thunderbird, they will have none of it. They get confused as they have to unlearn their previous learnings and learn new things. It is tough to get out of the comfort zone. And why should they?

Take another example, as a true Sun employee, I got my Dad a CD of OpenOffice 2.0.4. It is a beautiful product, if you ask me. A worthy alternative to the proprietary MS Office. OpenOffice 1.x was too simplistic as compared to contemporary MS Office versions, but with the release of OpenOffice 2.0, the gap between them has reduced quite a lot. But my Dad doesnt seem to have taken a particular liking to OpenOffice. When he presses Delete on a cell in a spreadsheet in OpenOffice Calc (OpenOffice’s answer to MS Excel), it throws up a dialog asking him to confirm his action and gives him some more alternatives (like converting the formula results to a value instead deleting it). This is not how MS Office behaved, and simply because of that it is annoying to my Dad. Page Layout menu option is not in the File menu in OpenOffice, it’s somewhere else. These little things, here and there, are wasting his time.

Sites like Yahoo! must have done a considerable research before launching the new UI. I remember they were asking for feedback in March 2006 for the new main page. I don’t criticize them, but I don’t like the plight of users like my Dad who are left high and dry. Similarly, I don’t think making OpenOffice an exact replica of MS Office is the solution. Surely there should be an escape hatch somewhere?