Considering Other Views

I love my Pebble 2 watch. It’s simple, the charge lasts for days, and it does what I want out of a device. However, it’s a device that isn’t made anymore, and after a fall, I have a crack in the screen. Since I like having some sort of watch in my wrist, and I like gathering some health data, I started looking for other options. I was reading a review of the Fitbit Versa the other day, and the first part of the review was a literal problem with much software design I’ve seen recently.

The first item in the review talks about notifications. Those are valuable on a device like this, and one of problems is text size. There’s a quote in there: “The text size is tiny, even when you select the item”. That’s a problem I’ve had with many devices, including the Pebble. In fact, I see this in software overall as a problem with design. It’s one that comes about because I think that far too often we don’t consider a wider range of viewpoints.

I’m getting older. A consequence of that is my eyes do not focus as well as they used to and I need to increase the fonts on screens. I can easily do this in browsers, and make SSMS fonts larger in most cases, but not all. I can increase the size of some things in Windows, but that can cause issues in others. My phone allows some font changes, but that can be limited. There are times when notifications or other text is hard to read, and this limits the usefulness of these features.

Technology has been growing and expanding as I’ve aged. However, it seems that more and more often companies are using people in their 20s and 30s to design systems that will increasingly be used by an aging population. From dashboards in vehicles to labels in applications, it seems that far too many designers don’t consider the impact of their font, icon, and graphic choices on older eyes. Even the design of our operating systems don’t seem to have deeply embedded extensive flexibility of changing text and icon sizes. Sure we can alter resolution, but that’s a very intrusive operation and may break other things. Often we just need labels enlarged.

Software and UX design are hard, and often we get caught up in our own viewpoint of how to build an application. We won’t ever completely solve that as users will always have different ways they want to work with our systems. The ability to change options, and especially deal with accessibility choices will grow as our systems move out to a wider and wider audience. What might have seemed simple and intuitive may be more complex for new users that haven’t evolved with out system.

Our database software likely isn’t going to be often seen by end users, and certainly we don’t have control over the tools they use, but we still ought to consider  how our objects will be used by others. More descriptive names, extended properties that tools can read, and even views to remap complex structures are good ways to provide an easier interface to the data for report designers and third party tools. Those items come with a cost and have to be maintained as we change schemas, but that might be a small price to pay if we can prevent lots of support tickets requesting details about what OrdrLnPrc means.

Steve Jones

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One Response to Considering Other Views

  1. waynezombie says:

    You might consider the Garmin Forerunner 35. I saw one in Best Buy, and it’s much smaller than the Fitbits and apparently supports programmable screens. It also has an attractive price. Today I saw an article on Ars Technica that hooks were discovered in a developer’s edition of iOS indicating that user-developed watch faces may be coming to the Apple Watch series in a future version of the OS.

    As for me, I shall stick with my Pebble Time Steel until it breaks or requires a reboot and I lose the custom watch faces and programs that I have in it that give it value for me. Apparently the servers that allow us to load programs on it are being shut down by Fitbit very soon, if they haven’t been already.

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