Avoiding easy

When you spend all day working with the same piece of software your definition of what is easy for someone else becomes horribly skewed. Since I started jamming with the CoPress gang in 2009, I have spent thousands of hours staring at a WordPress dashboard. It means much of the WordPress interface is easy for me. That’s dangerous.

I try to minimize the number of times I use easy in a support reply. I avoid phrases like “Setting up custom menus is easy…” or “Writing a new post is easy…” There are a few reasons for this.

First, if a feature or product were legitimately easy the user would not be writing in to support about how stuck they are. Sure, some percentage of users will find questions to ask about any interface. But do you want to start the conversation by assuming the user falls into that percentage? You venture to learn much more if you assume the software is wrong, not the user.

Second, describing something as easy sets a dangerously high bar for the user when they walk away and try it for themselves. Before you characterize a feature as easy you should be certain it actually is. If you say “easy” and the user does not get it they will, at best, feel like they are wasting your time and, at worst, feel like it is not worth using your product.

Finally, the worst part about saying a product is easy is that it immediately starts the conversation by putting you in command. You are the expert. You are the one who said it was easy. In some cases that is okay. It will work out. But doing so shuts down your opportunity for learning from your users. If, instead, you think back to the days when you did not know everything, you can start the conversation on an equal ground. Help the user accomplish their goal but also learn about where the pain points are so that you can make the user’s experience, and your product, better.

The best support is a conversation. The best support happens when a user learns how to do something new and you learn about how your product can be better. This can only happen when you do not immediately think of your software as easy, intuitive, or simple. If you can remember that you too were once new to things you will end up with a better product and, most importantly, happier users.