Recalling the frustration of the pre-USB days filled with floppy disks and drivers, Victor is glad that finally, the user experience is becoming more and more important.
I remember, as I’m sure many of you do, that sinking feeling immediately following the realization that I simply couldn’t justify postponing any longer the addition of a new peripheral—a mouse, keyboard or printer—to my PC, a task that most often required only a modicum of computer knowledge, but the patience of a saint. In the late 1990s, installing a new mouse, an ostensibly straightforward task, typically took half-an-hour and entailed loading numerous device drivers ingeniously stored on separate 5.25-inch floppy discs. Could a more undemanding task be made to be any more convoluted, I wonder?
Thanks, by the way, to the Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), IBM, Intel, Microsoft, NEC and Nortel consortium for dreaming up the Universal Serial Bus (USB) in the mid-1990s, a development that helped consign floppy discs to the computing scrapheap, while at the same time ushering in a new era of data storage and connectivity that has helped me maintain my blood pressure at a respectable 120/80.
Whenever I have the opportunity to speak with a technology end-user—someone on the front lines like a trader, head of desk, or portfolio manager, rather than the head of IT or the CIO—one of the first questions I ask is what single change they would make that would have the biggest impact on their daily lives. The answer, invariably, has nothing to do with increased levels of functionality or performance, but rather improved usability. In other words, users would prefer their technology to be more intuitive and easier to live with than faster or more functionally rich.
Where the software industry serving the capital markets has erred in the past is that often applications are designed with engineers’—and not end-users’—preferences in mind. Sure, projects are conceived and specced around feedback provided by the target market, but far too often the look and the feel of the user interface, the most critical piece of any application, is determined by what engineers think users want and not necessarily what they need.
Tim Murray's feature this month sheds light on this subject, and reports that a number of large third-party providers are focusing on this aspect of their products, now that the functional nuts and bolts within the applications have been worked out. According to Fahd Arshad, Bloomberg’s head of user experience (UX), one of his university professors would often tell his students that “the user isn’t me,” insinuating that what might seem logical and practical to an engineer or designer, wouldn’t necessarily be the case for end-users. That’s a great observation, one that if more technology providers focus on, might just initiate a reduction in the consumption of Beta-blockers in our industry.
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