Pressing your own buttons

26Sep07

A few years ago, I had a Lexmark laser printer that would periodically run into an error. Instead of resetting itself, a light came on that said “Press button”. Once you pressed the big reset button, it would start working again. I thought this was pretty silly, since if the system knows enough to tell me to press the button, why can’t it just perform the reset itself? It’s not like I was doing anything physical, like clearing a paper jam.

Fast forward to present day, where I just came across a high-end espresso machine that does the same thing. After you turn on the machine, it says “Press clean button”. Once you press the button, it continues with an automated process that it obviously should be able to start on its own.

With these examples in mind, I offer a simple guideline: Don’t ask users to manually start a process that is (a) required to use the product and (b) fully automated once they start it. Instead, just have your product handle this on its own, and give the user a status indicator if you like. This proactive approach reduces hassle and provides a more streamlined user experience.



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