People Tolerate Bugs and Problems Because Technology Is Still Confusing

Jay Sitter:

If my screen were at 5% brightness, or if I couldn’t use my phone without hitting “Cancel” every five seconds, I’d spend hours or days on Google trying to find a solution if that’s what it took. That these people mostly just lived with it means that these problems couldn’t have been markedly worse than technology has already been for them historically.


These are design problems, not user problems. I hate thinking that in 2020 we still live in a world where most people continue to hate technology because the experience has been so hostile to them their whole lives.

About seven years ago, Marc Scott wrote an article about how kids do not actually know how to use technology, contrary to popular belief. He cited an instance of a student turning on her PC tower but not the monitor as an example of someone not knowing how computers work.

I wrote a response because I was so incensed by its condescension, but I often think about Scott’s article as a reminder that most people just want to get things done. Whenever I am designing or building something, it is my job to make the resulting product as straightforward and reliable for a user as I possibly can. I am not saying that I always achieve those ideals; I just think standards need to be higher. Users should expect better than they do.

Nikita Prokopov:

[…] The point is, this happens all the time, every day, multiple times a day, and one person can dedicate only so much time to dealing with it. The stream of minor annoyances is so large people just got tired of dealing with it! And no, there’re no better alternatives.

To prove my point, I decided to record every broken interaction I had during one day. Here’s the full list I wrote yesterday, September 24, 2020.

I maintain that, while the number of bugs and problems users experience is linear, their understandable frustration is exponential. It’s no wonder they have learned to tolerate poor-quality work.

Update: Blog posts about poor quality software are a reliable trope — and I mean that in a complimentary way. That should indicate just how frustrating it is to deal with year in and year out. Sadly, business incentives are often more aligned with new features and redesigns; making things work really well only results in pride and admiration.