User Friendliness: Do Computers Have to be Clinical and Boring?Written by Daniel Punch
While sleeping through a lecture recently I roused for just long enough to catch lecturer saying that "Error messages should not try to be funny or amusing, they should be clear and concise". This got me thinking about ever-elusive goal of user friendliness. The concept has changed much over years with packages such as DOS going from being one of easiest packages on market, to now being complicated, convoluted, and ignored. I have begun to wonder why I am being taught that computers have to be boring to be user friendly.
The predictable nature of computers is quite dull. I study computers and work with them, so I'm used to experiencing a certain number of faults every now and then. I find these dull and depending on how close my current deadline is, downright infuriating. On Internet side of things there is little quite as irritating as running into a 404 page when you're trying to find something. However, other day I ran into a site that displayed random 404 Haikus and instead of being upset at fact that my time was being wasted, I ended up typing in bizarre addresses just so that I could read all of little poems. You can find a few lists of 404 Haikus from a simple search in Google. Humorous website Homestarrunner.com has an entertaining page when you get address wrong that screams "Four-oh-foured!" and displays a very entertaining message. They have another 404 page on their site that is a hilarious cartoon you can watch.
In terms of applications, games occasionally have amusing error messages such as one in 'Escape From Monkey Island' with title "Congratulations, you have found a bug!" and concludes with "...get back to work". There's naturally a bit more leniency and tendency towards entertaining secrets in games. Easter Eggs used to be a lot more common in software applications. These are hidden sections of code that average user will never activate but which provide an amusing result when they do. For a large list go to http://www.eeggs.com and search for a specific type of software program that you use. There may be a few minutes of hidden entertainment to be found.
Strategic Outsourcing: Testing the Outsourcing Waters and Staying AfloatWritten by Jenne Wason
Before Gertrude Ederle began her historic swim off of Cape Griz-Nez, France, she underwent extensive training for endurance and technique—even though she was already an accomplished record-breaking swimmer with Olympic medals to her name. Outsourcing IT may not garner same attention as being first woman to swim English Channel, but it is no less important to gather as much experience and knowledge as possible on a small scale before diving in for big swim.
The trend toward IT outsourcing is increasing dramatically. According to a report by Foote Partners, as much as 45% of North American IT work will be outsourced by 2005. And there are good reasons behind this trend. Bruce Caldwell, principal Gartner analyst believes companies can generate 20-30% savings through outsourcing. This substantial savings potential isn't easily overlooked, yet it isn't number one reason companies are choosing to outsource right now. In a recent survey by The Outsourcing Institute, primary reason behind outsourcing is to improve company focus. Other motives include freeing up internal resources, accessing top-notch capabilities, and accelerating time to market. The survey also indicated that 55% of firms who outsource do so within IT—more than any other area.
As more companies begin outsourcing some or all of their IT function, it becomes difficult to ignore competitive pressure. With competitors achieving their IT needs at 20-30% less cost, and getting ahead in market because of increased focus within company, those who ignore outsourcing trend could potentially lose ground very quickly.
At same time, outsourcing horror stories abound. According to Gartner research firm, half of current outsourcing projects will not meet company's expectations and will be considered failures. While vast majority of these failures are only minor disappointments where company decides to outsource to another vendor, certainly a few are major catastrophes. An anonymous case study in IT Metrics Strategies discusses a CIO who chose to outsource to beat competitors to market. The outsourcer had promised to meet a deadline his staff had said was impossible. When outsourcer failed, CIO couldn't rebuild his team fast enough to finish job. In end, product never got to market at all.