How much control should our callers have?

I ran across a very interesting entry regarding user control vs. user happiness. Just like with everything else, we’re always struggling to find that delicate balance between giving users too much control (sometimes setting up the wrong expectations or not being able to deliver), or too little, making users suffer or worse, leaving them trap in an IVR jail.

Furthermore, how do we deal with customers expectations: on one hand we suffer from “featuritis” (expecting to do/get/have more with the same) which tends to cause stress (as addressed in The Paradox of Choice book, by Barry Schwartz) while on the other we ask for simplicity (a topic I covered on my last SpeechTEK Presentation)

The note in particular that I think captured this dichotomy perfectly was “The big problem is that we make our beginning users suffer just so our advanced users can tweak and tune their configurations, workflow, and output.”

Finally, the author’s simple rule: “The amount of pain and effort should match the user’s perceived payoff.” makes you wonder… how can we VUI Designers get better at setting up the right payoff expectations? Is the amount of pain and suffering we’re causing justifiable?

I would like to propose my own rule as a challenge to spark your creativity: “The amount of pain and effort should be inversely proportional to the user’s perceived payoff.”

…and if you think that’s impossible, here’s an example: When the internet first started, we knew that the amount of time it took to download files matched the number of users attempting to do the same at the same time; therefore with more users, the web became slower (common sense, right?). But then P2P (peer-to-peer) networks were developed, so now that relationship not only became less relevant but was actually reversed (by removing the centralized limitation): with an increase in the number of users attempting to download a file, the speed with which it can be downloaded increases!

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