Make Yourself Useful on November 14, 2006 –
Celebrate The World Usability Day

By , SAP User Experience, SAP AG – October 27, 2006

"Making Life Easy" – "Why Doesn’t This Work Right? What Am I Supposed To Do Now?"

Here is a short story to illustrate the value of usability in our everyday lives. And then I will reveal why I told this story.

A Day at the Zoo in a German Town – No Trespassing!

During my last visit to the zoo in my German home town, I had an interesting encounter with the zoo's highly sophisticated entrance system.

Bejing zoo entrance

Figure 1: The entrance of the zoo in Bejing is not as sophisticated as the one described in this editorial... (from www.

After I successfully entered the zoo, my attention was drawn to an elderly couple right behind me. I heard an expression of dismay and then realized that they couldn't pass through the turnstile. So I tried to help them – and understood what their problem was:

To get into the zoo, you have to purchase a ticket, insert it into a ticket reader, wait for a high-pitched tone, and then walk through a turnstile. But elderly people often suffer from age-induced hearing loss and cannot detect high frequencies, so this couple had missed the tone that prompted them to go through the turnstile.

There was sign giving instructions, though, – but it was an itsy-bitsy tiny one. Like many seniors, the couple was long-sighted, so they could not read it.

To sum up, once your ticket has been inserted into the ticket reader, it is canceled and cannot be reused. But if you cannot read the sign and cannot hear the tone, you will never know what has happened, especially since the zoo had implemented a further technological advancement:

As you pass the turnstile, you have to make sure that it locks in place. Otherwise, the next person will just put it into place and will be not able to walk through, in spite of his or her ticket being canceled correctly.

This example shows that technology should always serve humans and not the other way round, and it most certainly should not bully them. As technology pervades our lives more and more, it is mandatory for designers to make sure that it is easy to use – in the interest of usability, safety, and education.


World Usability Day

World Usability Day (WUD) has been established to direct the public's attention to problems such as the one described. It promotes the value of usability engineering, user-centered design, and "the belief that every user has the responsibility to ask for things that work better." It is organized by the Usability Professionals' Association (UPA) and their local chapters as a worldwide event, focusing on easy-to-use technology. Last year, it involved 115 local events in 35 countries. This year, featuring the motto "Making life easier," even more local events have been scheduled, comprising 36 hours of activities at the local level around the globe, all occurring on November 14, 2006.

World Usability Day

Figure 2 : The World Usability Day 2006 logo

One of the local German events will be jointly hosted by SAP AG, the multi-media agency kuehlhaus AG from Weinheim, Germany, and the University of Applied Sciences, Mannheim, Germany. It will take place in SAP's training center (Building 05) in Walldorf, Germany. This is the first time that SAP has been actively involved in this event, which will include several presentations from the field, a panel discussion, and an exhibition.

At the Walldorf event, the focus is on usability in developing interactive Websites and designing applications, as well as the added value that implementing usability yields. The presentations will feature practical examples with before/after comparisons. The event will close with a panel discussion.

The organizers of the Walldorf event cordially invite you to participate if you are interested in usability or marketing, and/or if you are involved in purchasing software. Admission to the event is free. If you would like to attend the local WUD event in Walldorf, Germany, please register here.



General World Usability Day links:


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