Control Option Support

The phone is ringing again. When I pick it up, the owner of the voice in my ear is clearly at his wit’s end. He’s not just mad at his computer, he’s pissed at his computer.

Any designer could benefit from a stint in tech support. The in-the-trenches view of user behavior, along with an audience close enough to take a swing at you and actually connect, is priceless. Lessons meted out at the hands of Mother Experience. “No, toasters don’t make great bathtub accessories. Ask us how we know.”

Which always takes me back to this memory from an office far, far away, during a distant, earlier era of my life.

In his office, faced with the offending machine, we begin The Assessment.

No matter where he clicks, a contextual menu is popping up. Plain old single-button mouse connected to a perfectly innocent looking Mac. Angry jabs at the mouse ensue as he demonstrates. Click—pop, a menu on the desktop. Click—pop, another menu on the desktop.

I’m standing just to the side of his desk, frozen in place, mouth hanging ever so slightly agape. Before my mind could even begin it’s customary scroll through the exotic points-of-failure checklist, the eyes had done a scan of the scene and returned back with a full report. I’m still standing where that report halted me.

Really? Another quick glance, just to be sure. Yes… really.

An awkward moment passes.

I lean forward, and with both hands gingerly pick up the book that’s sitting on the edge of his keyboard—plunked directly on top of the Control key.