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World Usability Day: "Making it Easy" for Technology Users

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Technology should work. And it shouldn't make you feel stupid. That's the goal of this year's first annual World Usability Day on November 3, 2005, with more than 50 events planned in 26 countries around the globe. Participants will include everyone from schoolchildren to government leaders. Garth Buchholz tells you what to expect.
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Technology should work. And it shouldn't make you feel stupid.

An old email joke that's been around for a few years now speculates on what would happen if cars were made like computers. That is, "Your car would die on the freeway for no reason, but you would just accept this and restart the car," or "If you were involved in a crash, you would have no idea what caused it or what you could do to prevent crashes from occurring in the future."

Even when it's working the way it should, many users still find that their encounters with technology are frustrating at best. If there's anything we have in common with each other worldwide, it's the lack of usability for the technology we use.

A new day has dawned for technology users—and it's called World Usability Day. The first World Usability Day, scheduled for November 3, 2005, includes a rolling timeline of events starting in Australasia and then moving westward to end with an event at the DUX (Designing for User Experiences) 2005 Conference in San Francisco.

Making it Easy

Organized by the Usability Professionals Association (UPA) and sponsored by Human Factors International, Intuit, and Apogee (an Asian usability services provider based in Hong Kong), the events are being created and driven by UPA volunteers, whose goal is to promote awareness of the benefits of usability engineering and user-centered design. This year's focus is on eGovernment with the theme "Making it Easy."

Elizabeth Rosenzweig, principal with Bubble Mountain Consulting in Newton, Massachusetts and co-chair of the event, says:

  • "It is not enough to have and use new technology—such as the Internet, cell phones, PDAs, digital cameras—and just accept that sometimes it does not do what you want or thought it should. People need to see that technology is not driving us, but we are crafting and using technology to serve us. It is an important and simple message. Technology should always be usable."

At least 50 events are currently being planned in 26 countries around the world (many listed at the World Usability Day website), including Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Hong Kong, Indianapolis, London, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Montreal, New York, Ottawa, Rome, Tel Aviv, and Zurich. In Tel Aviv, they will go out, en masse, to development organizations and provide consulting and education to the high-tech industry. In Montreal, the day's activities will focus on people who live with disabilities and how unusable the world is to them.

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