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Of End-Users and Sysadmins (Importance of Defaults Continued)

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Still slightly bleary-eyed you logon to your computer in the morning all set for another day of work (yea right). Scanning your emails you see one marked “important” from the sysadmins. When you open it, it announces a new system they finished installing last night. Vaguely you remember hearing about it – it will make everybody more productive and improve security to boot. Oh well. And the old system doesn’t work as of today. Everything’s just getting better and better.

The email includes a link so you click it and a new window opens displaying more text and another link to download something. You click that link as well and somehow make it through the sequence of screens that follow. Finally you find yourself faced with something that has got you totally stumped – a request to provide a “server address”. You figure that the server must be in the building so desperately you copy the office address off of your own business card but that doesn’t seem to work (either with or without the zip code).

You try calling up the sysadmins but they are all gone (after all, they’ve worked all night). As a last resort you try the old system, but indeed, it doesn’t work anymore. This is going to be a super productive day …

Extreme? Perhaps. But end-users really don’t know much about computer systems; they shouldn’t have to. And they certainly shouldn’t be required to understand a concept like “server address” (“farm address” will probably get them thinking about cows). This is why end-users should not be required to provide configuration setting values in order to be able to start using a system.

In a previous post I explained the importance of providing default configuration settings that just work, because sysadmins don’t want to have to specify every setting within every software package just to get it to work. This is doubly important for end-users. They shouldn’t be required to specify any setting in order to get the system to work, other than maybe their own credentials.

This is why enterprise software must enable sysadmins to specify default settings for the end-user, and even lock-down these settings so that the users don’t change them by accident. Even better, the manufacturer should provide default settings so that the system will just work for both the sysadmins and the end-users. For example, if the PowerTerm WebConnect server is installed on the same computer as the web server, neither the sysadmin nor the end-user will need to specify a server address. The web server’s address will automatically be used as the server address. If the PowerTerm WebConnect server is installed on a separate computer, the sysadmin can set the server address so that the end-user won’t be required to deal with it either.

So the end-users can get back to whatever it is that end-users do.

Dan Shappir is responsible for all aspects of product design, software development and maintenance of the Ericom's product lines. Mr. Shappir joined Ericom in 2001 and brings over 15 years experience in computer programming, and in the design and architecture of software products. Mr. Shappir holds a B.Sc. in Computer Science (with honors) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel and an M.Sc. in Computer Science (with honors) from Tel Aviv University, Israel. | Ericom Software
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