Dumb as Dell – Part 2

Part 1 was about matters in the “real world” – a customer willing to give a company money, on top of a large amount that he has already spent. But the company denies him the service, instead questioning whether he was the right owner of the machine. I still can’t get my head round to that one – never expected a company to turn down money. I guess pigs will fly next.

Part 2 – this post – is about matters “technical”.

Now this laptop I bought comes WITHOUT any form of Windows pre-installed ((It comes without any OS installed, but a FreeDOS CD is enclosed. This was part of the reason I bought the laptop in the first place, as I had already bought Windows, and thought I could save some money this way.)). Of course I knew what would come as part of the territory – installing the OS of your choice y(duh!) and, significantly, as you’ll soon see, all drivers etc. from the accompanying drivers CD (( You do not get a “restore CD” like a typical machine which comes with Windows pre-installed, which, again, is quite obvious, because this machine’s “initial state” is the “clean state”, which you don’t need no restore CD to reach. Given long enough, any Windows machine sooner or later will reach that stage in any case, but that’s not the point here.)).

With the OS installed I proceeded to install the drivers. Upon inserting the drivers CD, I was greeted by an application which gave me a list of all drivers available on that CD. To it’s credit, the application was smart enough to detect what hardware I had and as a result I could see a “Setup has detected the presence of this hardware” message next to the relevant drivers. So far so good, but that’s as far as the joy goes.

From then on, it was a case of clicking on each of those driver names individually, getting the setups running, “telling” each one of them where to extract themselves and clicking on a series of “next” buttons to get things over and done with. Imagine doing that a dozen times or so.

Now the reason I am upset is not because I had to run a dozen setups inside a few minutes, no – if you need the drivers, you’ve got to run the setups, right? I am upset, and frustrated, because a lot more could have been done to make this entire experience relatively pain free. The “hard part” had already been done i.e. identifying what hardware I had and what setups correspond to that. I know that in itself isn’t exactly hard, but it’s atleast the “harder” part compared to what I am about to suggest.

How difficult would it have been to automatically run all those setups at just one click?

Do you seriously think each of the drivers need to be extracted to a different location – can’t they use a common folder and just create sub-folders? Apart from that, there’s no answer that the setups expect from me – I am just expected to keep on clicking Next. “Are you sure you want to..” – Yes, Next. “This folder does not exist, should I…” – Yes, Next. “Do you agree.. ” – Yes, Next. “Do you want me to install..” – Yes, that’s why I started this process in the first place, Next.

Allow me to digress a little bit.

Next. Next. Next. Next. Have you ever seen a Windows user install a program i.e. run through a setup? ((I genuinely believe this phenomenon doesn’t happen to as large an extent in the Mac world, perhaps because we do not encounter that many “wizards”. I know when my Mac “asks me something”, it deserves my attention.)) Most of them just keep clicking on “Next” unless they find the button disabled or some other thing interrupts their “flow”, even when they are running that setup for the first time. You could very well write “I’m gonna kill your cat and format your hard disk now” and they’ll still click on Next. Because they simply don’t read what’s on the screen.

I don’t blame the users for that – they just have too many questions to answer! I blame the developers. Don’t ask the user a question unless you REALLY have to. Where should you install the application? Yes, ask that. Informing the user about other products you have to offer? Come on dude, that’s not even a question – no wonder the user will just skip over that and click on Next. Keep that out.

Developers have screwed up so much, that crap in the “standard” in the Windows world. That’s the way we do things, they say. Then you bloody well change it, because that is the reason people are getting frustrated with computers and believe that’s how computers are. They don’t have to be, and the Mac is an example of that.

Is it a surprise that viruses spread so fast on Windows, when perhaps 95% of the users don’t even bother to read what they are saying “Yes” to? To them every alert, every dialog box is an interruption to their work flow. They don’t care what it says as long as it vanishes, because they have to deal with so freankin’ many of them. Unless things grind to a halt and they have no real option but to pay attention to what it’s saying. Of course, by then, it’s too late.

Back to Dell.

Here’s what Dell could have done instead. I’m thinking check-boxes.

A single application that detects what hardware is present on my machine and gives me a list of corresponding drivers next to it. A little check-box next to each of the drivers, checked-on by default, if that driver is NOT already installed in my machine (shouldn’t be hard to detect that?). Conversely, if the driver is already installed on my machine, leave it unchecked (however, allow me to select it anyways, in case I want re-install). When I click Next, show me the EULA and other mandatory stuff you need to show. Once I agree, ask me ONCE where I would like to extract the setup for future reference, if at all. (Hint: nobody cares if the sub-folders are called “DL8362” or “HD3723”). Once I tell you that, go ahead, install ALL the drivers without asking me any further questions. The next time I should hear from you should be that “Reboot now or later” screen. That’s it.

How hard is it to implement that? Not at all. High school punks could do that in a couple of hours, so Dell with it’s army of engineers should be able to handle it. But question is, are they willing to? Scratch that, willingness comes later, are they even aware their software is lacking in these respects? How many “Usability Engineers” does Dell employ and what exactly have they been upto?

[tags]dell, microsoft, usability, software, interface, HIG, Mac, drivers, install, setup[/tags]

The spirit of adventure

It’s rather embarrassing to see that Manchester United fans are wearing T-shirts proclaiming that they’ve won nine Premiership title to Liverpool’s none. It shows a sad lack of historical perspective but if they want to believe that football started in 1992, they’re welcome to it. Yet it rather sums up the two cities that United should be fixated with domestics while Liverpool are on another foreign adventure. Go to Liverpool, and the city looks over the Mersey, a gateway to the wider world, to adventure, to endless possibilities. It’s a place with a global perspective. Manchester? It looks out over Saddleworth Moor.

An article in The Times.

The correct score, of course, is 18-16 and 5-2.