Perceptions v. Objective Reality

Posted on December 15, 2008  Comments (0)

User Interface Matters by Colleen Dick:

the earliest Hewlett Packard programmable calculators in the early 80’s. When engaging in lengthy number crunching, the calculator would print “crunching” (or processing, or something) on the display, and every few seconds it would add a dot, so the user would know something was happening.

HP engineers discovered that if they completely decoupled the display while serious crunching was going on, they could make the computations run 30-40% faster. Naturally they assumed the users would appreciate such a significant speed increase, so on their next revision, they just shut the screen down on lengthy computations.

Users complained about the slowdown! These are HP early adopters, mind you, mostly “rational” scientists and engineers. Remember, when objectively measured, the computations were measurably and significantly faster when the screen was decoupled!

In subjective time, the computations seemed slower without the feedback, even though in objective time we know they were faster.

There are times when objective improvement is most important, but there are also plenty of times when subjective improvement is more important. Often this difference is ignored.

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