Mistake Proofing Information Systems
There is a Japanese concept called Poke Yoke that in oversimplified terms means mistake proofing by design.
This is a brilliant and reassuring strategy when it works as intended…But it is massively frustrating when it doesn’t. I don’t think I am the only person that has ever tried to force fit an assembly together.
At the same time, we have all seen clever designs that only go together in one way. It is so intuitive that it just works. This is Poke Yoke design at its finest.
But with information systems, effective mistake proofing really means getting into the head of the end user, and that is difficult to do. It is more than data validation rules that prevent the wrong .
We have some tools that can help us, but there are two big problems here. One is that we are not entirely sure that we know what we want the end user to do and the other is that the end user doesn’t really know what they want them to do either…
We can write instructions and make demo videos to help the user, but that assumes the user is motivated and has the time and interest to go through the materials.
It also assumes that we do a good job creating these materials. Unfortunately, it is difficult to create materials that work for all possible users and use scenarios…so we create something for the average user.
And since we know that there is no such thing as average, we end creating materials for no one.
So what we tend to end up with is a system of mutual frustration. The end user is frustrated with the system and we are frustrated with the end user.
All this is another reason to rethink the way that we manage information.