"Computer usability sucks, part eleventy-million."
It's Christmas. That means it's time to help fix my parents technology problems. My parents are not technophobic nor stupid. My father was actually head of engineering for a national TV channel (he's now retired), and he taught me programming when I was 8 years old. Despite this, 3 days in they already faced 3 basic problems with mainstream products that they had no realistic way to solve without my help. All these problems could have been easily avoided with some basic care and attention paid by product developers.
Software industry, let's make avoiding these kinds of things a new years resolution!
Problem 1. Father finds his Nexus 5 confusing because when he receives an email, he taps the notification and ends up in one view of his inbox, but then if he goes to the home screen and presses the icon labelled "Inbox" he doesn't get back where he started.
Solution 1. Google built a new email app (which is very nice) but, not so brilliantly, named it "Inbox". My father very reasonably assumed that pressing an icon with such a name will open the same inbox as his email notifications do. Removing the app from the home screen and replacing it with the Gmail app fixes things.
Problem 2. My mother suddenly can't log on to her ISP's webmail anymore. She gets an error about cookies. Checking the browser settings shows she hasn't disabled cookies or fiddled with anything, and the problem started out of the blue, so what's going on?
Solution 2. Her browser history and therefore autocomplete has a URL containing the name of her webmail product which was generated as part of some login redirects. It contains an expired authentication token. So when she types the name of her webmail she ends up trying to restart an expired login process and this results in a bogus error message. Removing the broken URL from the browser history fixes it.
Problem 3. My mother wants to put music from Spotify through the living room speakers. She has an airport and an iPhone/iPad. She also has written down instructions to herself for how to route the audio from Spotify to the airport, but it seems iOS was changed since the instructions were written and they don't make sense anymore.
Solution 3. I don't use iOS but remember from reading tech reviews that there's a hidden tray at the bottom of the screen that you can swipe upwards to reveal. We take a look and discover the control hiding in there. There is no visible indication that this panel existed and I'm not sure how my mother would have figured this out except by asking someone who already knew.
Three simple problems, none of which could be resolved without 'secret' knowledge I obtained by simply being a part of the tech industry.
Programmers of the world, we CAN do better and we MUST do better!