I love to learn. I can admit it now, but it did take awhile to realize. I wasn't too fond of school until my junior year in college. It turns out, that was mostly for reasons that had nothing to do with actual learning. Discovering that education is not synonymous with institution is eye-opening—I could write a whole book about that. Anyway, I finally realized some things about the ways I learn best and I started to get it. Now, my professional life revolves around the Internet. Being in a field like this, with technology constantly changing, one has keep learning all the time - just to keep up.
I know not everyone shares this same passion. That's OK. But, I think everyone can relate to experiences in their lives where a little educational effort can have a big impact. How about when we learn that we have to leave no later than 7:12 a.m. or we'll get stopped by a train? Or, when we learn what soothes our crying baby. When we learn how to cook a delicious steak. It's all still learning, but it feels a lot different than algebra.
It can be frustrating we when have a desire to learn, when we can see the benefits of knowledge or wisdom in the distance, but there's something in the way. Which leads me to my resentment of the self-checkout lines at grocery stores. It never fails. At least once whilst checking out, I am stopped in my tracks by the unhelpful, patronizing, "an attendant has been notified to assist you." Sometimes I have to wait for up to a minute for said attendant to appear. The audacity! What did I do wrong? How can I avoid this mistake next time? No feedback is ever given.
It's been suggested that it has something to do with goods not weighing what they should, but, I swear it seems I've got that message after just looking at the dang thing the wrong way. How about some helpful error messages like: "This item weighed differently than we expected, an attendant has been notified to reconcile this." "You were scanning too fast, and a few things got out of order." Then I could adjust and do better. I could learn. Maybe I should just be happy self-checkouts exist at all - but that's not the promise of technology. Not that something cool or new merely exists, but that it is a net positive to our life experience. The cons seem to cancel out all the pros in this case.
That's just one example, but there are countless websites and software that people use that either just crash and burn without warning, or display some cryptic error message that you need a Computer Science degree to understand.
When we're creating websites that involve any kind of user interactivity, we need to keep this in mind. When it's the computer's fault an error has occurred, say so and provide a quick way for a user to resume working. When the user is at fault, politely suggest to them how they can avoid it in the future. Plan for errors in advance by providing auto-save functionality. Simple things like this can go a long way in making a user's time on a website more pleasurable. By minimizing this kind of frustration, or friction, not only are we increasing the chances that a user will perform a desired action, or convert, but we are generally doing something nice. It's just common digital courtesy.