The User’s Law

If you’re a professional developer (in software development), you should know that there is a law regarding users behavior. Though it’s an unofficial, not a scientific law as Newton’s Law, and considered as a joke, somehow developers found it to be true. Here, I present you the User’s Law which is known in software development, with a brief explanation. 😀

The User’s Law in Software Development

  1. Users never read manuals.

    Users think they are super clever people, so they never need to read manuals. Reading manuals is considered as a wasting time activity. And of course those clever wannabe users want the software to do things as they expected (no matter how odd their expectations are). If their expectations are not fulfilled, they will assume the developers of the software are dumbs.

  2. If users read the manuals, they never understand them.

    Despite that users think themselves as super clever people, actually they are super dumb people. Even if they do read the manuals, they never understand them. They are really just wasting their time when they read the manuals. Again, if they don’t understand the manuals, they will assume the writers of the manuals are dumbs too.

  3. Users never do wrong, softwares always do errors.

    Because users think they are super clever people, they never want to be blamed for any kind of damages they cause while using the software. In the users’ point of view, a user never goes error, sofware does. Yup, this is because the Windows Effect™. 😀 If you insist the users are wrong, they will dump you out and find other developers. Feel lucky if they don’t ask their money back.

So, before you start to develop any kind of software, make sure you have understand enough your prospective users’ behaviors and how “clever” they think they are. A comprehensive understanding to users’ behaviors and expectations should produce a smart software. 😉

6 Responses to The User’s Law

  1. DaveK says:

    “If you’re a professional developer (in software development), you should”:
    1) ensure that your design doesn’t require the user to even think about having to read the manual … if they do – it’s your fault.
    2) make sure that you supply a manual and that it is clearly written to the comprehension level of your target audience … if they can’t understand it – it’s your fault.
    3) if you make them think … and they guess wrong – it’s your fault.
    4) keep it in mind, while you’re designing, that users do not want to use your software, they need to use it to get a job done. Although this may [in most cases] not be even remotely true, keeping it in mind should help avoid items 1 through 3 🙂

    Users are brilliant!
    Where would we be without them? 🙂

  2. bee says:

    Ah, you’ve got the points! 😀

  3. bee says:

    All of your points are absolutely right. But the basic idea of them is remain the same as mine, though using a different approach and point of view. The basic idea is we (developers) should not make our users think. When people don’t think, there only two possibilities:
    1. They are super brilliant (do something without thinking), or
    2. They are super dumb (who even don’t know how to think).
    I assumed the second, you assumed the first.

    However, no matter which assumption we had, still we have to build a smart software that can be operated by users who can’t or don’t think. If we failed, there are two possibilities as well:
    1. The developers are dumb, or
    2. The users are dumb.
    So, no matter which assumption we had, The User’s Law still apply. That’s why I called it as “law”. 😉 Of course, ideally both developers and users are brilliant. But nothing in this world is ideal, right?

  4. hover says:

    I found The User’s Law to be a dry joke and a little bit sarcasm. But I think it has the points right. If I understand it right, The User’s Law demands us (developers) to build software(s) smartly. So, if we see the law in positive way, The User’s Law could be translated using developers point of view and become:

    1. Developers should build the software in such a way so users don’t need to read the manuals.
    2. Developers still should supply the manuals and make sure they are clearly written to the comprehension level of the users.
    3. Software should able to “guide” the users while operating the software in such a way to prevent users do something bad and harm themselves (or the machine) intentionally or unintentionally.

  5. DaveK says:

    Ahhh, to be read by developers as a bit of inspirational shtik. From that perspective, it makes perfect sense … but then I wouldn’t have included “developers found it to be true” as it really [to me] defeats that purpose.

    As intended … it’s really quite clever.

  6. L505 says:

    Agree with the law.

    Even developers don’t read the manuals. Have you read every single man page for linux and bsd? Has anyone read the Microsoft Windows 95 help files completely? How about the Windows XP ones? Who has time?

    I read certain man pages and certain manual pages but never read the entire manual.

    Go into a library and try to read every single book in the library.. and then we understand ‘ignorance’ and its importance in life. Start pulling them off the shelf.. and count out loud.. and then when you come and ask me ‘why are apple seeds red in color?’, will tell you to: Read The Fine Manual. No, that’s rude. We don’t have time to read the manual for every item on the computer or in the fruit bowl.

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