I’ve had a rather terrifying experience this weekend involving a Windows user, a Mac running OS X and a small audience.
We were at a friends’ house enjoying dinner together with some other friends. One of these people wanted to show something on the Mac of the friend we having dinner with.
After taking this person took control over the Mac things started to get ugly. As he wasn’t at all familiar with the OS X interface it seemed as if he had a nervous-fit: what followed was a good deal of yelling, cursing at the machine, swearing, calling all Mac users a bunch of assholes, calling Mac machines slow, etc… Veins were popping out on his forehead. Very ugly indeed.
Now keep in mind this was in the house of this friend we were having dinner with (who is a Mac user), while we (all five of us) were watching him. Maybe that was a factor to take into account… Now this Mac was not one of the most recent machines, so everything was slowed down a bit. Maybe that was also a reson for his discomfort.
In retrospect, I suspect that what he was really saying was: why is this machine not behaving like my machine I am familiar with? Why can’t I use this machine like my Windows machine?
What makes people behave and react in this irritated fashion? Was it just the fact that he had to swich to the unfamiliar Mac OS X interface? Was it because we (the audience) made him feel nervous? Or was it because he had to think conciously about what he wanted to do and how to achieve his goal?
I perfer to think it was the latter: panic kicks in when your familiar way of doing things is unavailable and you have to think your way through a problem.
Don’t make your users think.