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It is hard IT life

By Jean-Claude Elias - Mar 28,2019 - Last updated at Mar 28,2019

Those who design software, websites and computers of all kinds, including mobile devices, still have not understood that what the vast majority of users and consumers really want, before anything else, is simplicity. Those who enjoy tweaking, improving, modifying and messing with IT in general, in a somewhat masochistic way, do not even represent five per cent of the population. The other 95 per cent want peace of mind and fast, trouble-free operation.

I admit that security concerns sometimes make it hard on manufacturers and programmers to keep things simple. Take Apple ID for instance. Those who use the company’s products are all too familiar with it for they need it to access various Apple-related services: iTunes, Apple Store, etc. However, if you happen to forget it and want, for instance, to reformat your iPad, the recovery process is way too complicated, and I have seen cases where users completely lost usage of their iPad because of an Apple ID issue. Apple’s explanation was that they were only trying to protect the owner of the iPad from eventual theft!

Life with Microsoft is not much simpler. The company wants you to have a unified Microsoft account identity, whether it is to access Hotmail or use Skype. You cannot have separate passwords for each of these services anymore and must use a Microsoft identity. The headache associated with this system, the complex process to recover information if you lose it, it is all but justified. Some Skype users say they miss the days when it was not a Microsoft product, before 2011.

Let us not forget about online banking. Whereas this is now the norm, not all banks know how to do it smoothly, how to make all their patrons feel comfortable and safe using the system, regardless of age group, gender or professional background. I have compared the clients’ online banking interface of four major banks established in Jordan. I would say only one does it really well, two would rate as average and the last one would rate as downright poor.

Surprisingly, dealing online with the two main providers of mobile telephony and Internet services in the country, namely Orange and Zain, is no picnic. This is a disappointment and also a contradiction, given that these two entities are supposed to be at the top, at the avant-garde of high-tech.

Another disappointment cause by the complexity of the IT world is the fact that almost 15 years after they have been introduced, the various biometrics identification methods, including fingerprint and iris scans, are not widely implemented and have not been adopted by all parties. These were supposed to free consumers from the traditional, complex identification processes based on passwords. At this point in time only high-end smartphones, some rare border points of entry and a few banks are using iris scan to identify the population.

Ideally, we would love to have biometrics identification when using a computer and accessing the web with one of the popular browsers such as Chrome, Firefox or Edge.

On the “uselessly, desperately complicated” list is the eternal question of compatibility between operating systems (Windows, Android, Apple OS, ….), devices and software applications. It is unbelievable to come to the sad conclusion that after almost 40 years, and while honestly acknowledging that some progress has been achieved in that sense, there are still huge issues of compatibility in the industry. I cannot count the times when, after an automatic update performed by Windows, I had a message saying that this scanner, that printer, or this software application, would not work anymore.

Doug Garnett, president of Protonik, an innovation firm based in Oregon in the US, likes to be more specific about the issue and says that “Innovation is not complicated – it’s complex. So is the challenge of marketing innovative products.” This is in part true, of course, but I am certain that designers and programmers do not always put themselves in the users’ shoes as they should, otherwise they would certainly be able to come up with products that are simpler to use. Let us keep on dreaming.

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