Software Usability - A Philosophy or a Practical Way of Life
Probably everyone has seen the widely circulated video clip of the man in hunched over a computer terminal looking puzzled. He suddenly stands up and hits the screen with his keyboard. As his work colleagues stand up on the surrounding cubicles the man throws the monitor to the floor and begins to kick it repeatedly.
What is happening here? Is this man unusual? No, probably not – this is an example of the ‘Techno-rage’, and the feelings that precipitated the rage are extremely common.
It seems to be that wherever computers touch our lives, it has become normal to expect us to bend our working and thinking methods to suit the machine. If your software crashes your first thought is probably ‘what did I do wrong?’ The user is dehumanized, made to feel foolish – whereas the aim should be humanization of the software.
Nowhere is the human interaction with software neglected so much as with complex engineering software. It is assumed that the engineer will apply his logical thought process to finding out how the software works and will ‘put up’ with difficult and unstable software.
At Transfinite Systems we have never considered this to be acceptable. When Visualyse was launched in 1995 the menu and dialog driven interface was ground breaking. In the years since, we have changed the way the program looks and feels and we have added very significant functionality. However, the basic mode of operation of the software has not changed.
Visualyse Professional is based on a model of the radiocommunications that includes familiar real world objects. These are mapped onto the objected orientated code and reflect in the way you interact with the software.
The process of developing a Visualyse model involves defining things like antenna performance, radio stations, communications links etc. If you, as an engineer, look at an existing Visualyse model, you will understand many aspects of it immediately.
In Visualyse GSO, the interaction is so focused on supporting the tasks of the satellite coordinator that the software is usable right out of the box. A detailed and on-going process of communication with users and potential users is at the heart of the development of Visualyse GSO. This is also true of Visualyse Coordinate and Visualyse EPFD – each designed to support a specific task.
Usability extends beyond what you see when you install and start-up the software. Our support program is an essential part of the offering – training, consulting and technical support through telephone and email ensure that you can get the maximum from the software.