Soholaunch Company Blog

3 Ways to Make Your Life More User-Friendly

17 May 1 by Mike Morrison

Several lessons from software development can be applied towards making your life easy-to-use. Here are a few of my favorites. Suggest your own in the comments!

1. Can't decide where to put something? Put it in both places.

Software example: There's a common problem in usability design: Do we put the "Save" button at the top of the page, or at the bottom of the page? Sometimes, the best answer is "both." If you put the button in both places, it will always be on the screen when the user needs it.

Life example: In your personal life, you may often find yourself trying to figure out the best place to locate some object. Like, "I think it'll be better if I bring these nail clippers to work and put them in my drawer. I'm at work more than I'm at home, and it makes more sense for them to be there."

Then, two weeks after you brilliantly bring the nail clippers to work, you find yourself at home and wanting to clip your fingernails, so you think "Well maybe I was wrong. I guess these belong at home." Then you bring them home, and find yourself wanting them at work.

Whenever you get stuck in those kind loops, buy an extra pair of nail clippers (or whatever) so you can have one in each location. Even if it feels wasteful to buy two of the same thing, it can give you back so much sanity.

2. Small wins matter. Solving a 5 second daily frustration impacts your overall happiness.

Software Example: Removing a redundant dialog prompt takes five minutes of coding time, and only saves users from a single interruption (and click), yet removing a small hurdle like that can make their whole software usage experience feel smoother, faster, and more friendly.

Life Example: Sometimes it feels silly to dedicate precious mental effort to solving a problem that only causes you a few seconds of frustration each day, but those seconds add up. When you find yourself thinking "Oh damnit. This again. Urgh. Ok, done. That's so annoying." don't keep suffering through it.

If you have a second, stop, and think of a way that you might be able to reduce the frustration from 5 seconds to 3 seconds. Saving yourself even 2 seconds of daily anger can make you feel calmer every day of your life. Plus, the now-shorter annoyance will remind you daily of your ability to control your life.

3. Pay attention to "phantom limb syndrome"

Many people who've had a limb amputated report feeling sensations in the missing limb. A soldier who's had his arm amputated may feel his missing fingertips tingling. This is referred to as "phantom limb syndrome."

Software Example: When you're using websites and software, you'll occasionally find yourself moving your mouse towards an area of the screen as if you're expecting to find a button or control there, but none exists. You may dismiss this feeling as "Oh for some reason I thought there would be a Save button at the top left. Guess I remembered wrong." As a software developer, it's my job to figure out when you feel this way, and put the button where you expect it to be.

Life Example: Pay close attention to your nebulous frustrations. In terms of life usability, phantom limb syndrome will feel like a subconscious wish for a solution. You'll find yourself craving a solution that doesn't exist in your life yet.

When you're frustrated with something, and you think "I want...I want...something...can't quite put my finger on why I'm frustrated by this process, but I feel like there's a fix that I'm craving." that's an opportunity to dig deep and start researching for a solution. And once you find the solution you were craving, it'll be an integral part of your life as if it was there all along.

Personal Example: I can't tell you how many times I used to stand up from my desk without remembering to take my audio headphones off. Several times a week I'd do this, yanking my headphone cable harshly, knocking things over, jerking my computer tower violently, and causing me to utter several swear words. And then I bought a nice pair of wireless headphones, and it has improved my life dramatically.

Those are 3 of the ways that I apply software usability principles to my life. What about you? What are some ways that you've hacked your life into being easier-to-use?