(Lessons for software engineers included)
By Luc Brandts
Reading time: 2 minutes
A few years ago, my wife and I decided to buy a really good coffee machine. One that makes the best coffee possible, makes you feel like a proper barista. A short search on the internet showed us it was going to be impossible to choose something that a true coffee fanatic would, so we went to a shop were those fanatic people work and sell the machines. It was an interesting social experiment of negotiating your own quality requirements downwards. And a little later, we left the shop with a machine that from then on ruled our lives.
Yes, it produces wonderful coffee, and we enjoy the coffee very much. But we’ve become slaves to the b@#&!y thing. It doesn’t just suggest actions, it orders us around with demands in bold statements on the display: Fill water, Add beans, Clean filter, Clean cappuccino tap, Water full and on and on. It has no limit!
It also adds a very sharp beeping sound to make sure we don’t forget to do something. Then, at unpredictable moments, it starts cleaning itself. That’s a great thing, of course, but why oh why does it always make us press a button to have the cappuccino tap cleaned? You started the process, finish it yourself! We’re afraid it won’t allow us to replace it with another, it’s that dominant.
So, dear makers of coffee machines, please educate your coffee machine software makers: be polite to your users, and try to take tasks away from them instead of asking them for input. You should make life easier for your users – not have them plan their lives around you.
Luc Brandts is CEO of Software Improvement Group. He is a seasoned IT professional, having run and managed several technology firms. Luc co-founded BWise in 1994, growing it to become a leading global technology firm.