Ever heard of NEDS?
It’s another handy acronym in a world full of HIMPERs (An acronym I just made up, but it looks pretty convincing if you ask me). So NEDS stands for: New Economy Depression Syndrome and it’s something that is apparently increasing in the hectic lives we lead. Gone are the days when we used to be able to loaf around in trees, picking nits off our sisters and eating bananas. Modern life is just a little bit more complicated now. For a start, my sister rations her nits to a measly 5 per week, which is barely sufficient to sustain a poor hapless usability nonce like myself.
So back to the topic at hand, what has NEDS got to do with anything? Well, it’s a self-reinforcing depression caused by exposure to stressors without an appropriate means to avoid them. Stressor number one is the sheer quagmire of data and information. So whereas many eons ago, the choices relating to bananas might just have been, yes or no, green or yellow, mine or theirs, now things are a trite more complicated. Organic or pesticided? From Tesco or Asda? Shaked or Baked? Pot noodle flavour or penny chew? With so much choice, we end up feeling guilty that we can’t get to experience each and every possibility. So many banana related activities – so little time.
The second stressor is constant interruption. People who know lots about this have even coined a fancy name for it: “decision shift”. We’re all a victim of this and it’s a lot more damaging to your productivity than you might give it credit for. So, for example, you’re in your zone – your document is almost writing itself, you even managed to slip in a fancy word or two that makes you look pretty smart – Transmogrificationized even, but then an email comes in. You couldn’t avoid noticing it and it’s from a good friend, so you take a quick peek. Half way through the email, the phone rings and just as you’re responding to that, you get a text message. Pretty soon your poor fuddled brain has shifted so much that getting back into what you were doing takes a good few minutes. And then of course messenger indicates your sister has a spare nit for you and your brain wanders off again to that happy place.
All of this chips away at us, we’re less productive, we feel guilty for it, there’s never enough time, we need time to regain our sense of purpose, we need mechanisms to bring simplicity to our lives.
So as part of achieving usable products, have in mind that the working environment that many of us now live in is a place where constant interuption and data excess makes using challenging software that much more difficult. If we can make our software take some of the strain – only provide the information our users need and avoid the need for the user to use short term memory, in our own small way we’re improving lives. Soon after that, world peace will be on the agenda and after that nit allocation will bountiful…