Tonights frustration with my router's software reminds me a lot of the early days of understanding how to people use Money. The problem was that I'm not a router expert and have a hard time understanding what it is that I'm suppose to do with the different setting and remembering if I already did that step. This isn't to say that maybe router manufacturer didn't run any usability testing on the software, it's just that if they did, it wasn't under the right circumstances.
Let me illustrate with something that was an important lesson to understanding how to better design Money. We found through a variety of means that I'm not going to discuss now, that a lot of people manage their finances at odd times and for some of these users it also means that there's lots of distractions going on. For example we watched one user who spent maybe 20 or 30 minutes trying to enter in a single transaction into his account's register. He stopped and started multiple times, often re-doing most of the entry. Why? It turns out that his kids (I think he had three of them) kept begging for his attention or were fighting, crying, fussing or what ever it turns out the kids were getting into. The end result was that he didn't remember what he had done and what he needed to do next. The software at the time didn't help him remember his place or the context of what he was doing.
Well tonight was my turn in that Sherri wanted me to get the computer back up on-line (not to mention that the TV also doesn't seem to work) while the kids were happy to see their daddy come home and wanted me to play with them. So trying to find out what was going on the router took a good 20 minutes and multiple restarts because I couldn't remember what it was I was looking at and what I had already found to see if X or Y was the problem.
The point of the story? Help the user know where they are and help to keep their context since they often won't get the chance to do the entire task in a quiet environment without interruptions. If I had a nice quiet place to get the task done without interruption maybe it would have only taken me 20 seconds rather than 20 minutes, but then again in the real world lots of interruptions are the norm.