My pet peeve regarding usability is the lack of (let’s face it, most) developers ability to put themselves in the situation of computer beginners (aka newbs). Eric S. Raymond describes exactly how bad this can get in The Luxury of Ignorance. And in my own opinion, this also describes why Linux is still miles away from being a viable desktop alternative for the regular Joe. I’ve had too many similar encounters like this myself.
A key point in understanding users is also discussed in Raymond Chen’s The default answer to every dialog box is “cancel”. Nice to see that Microsoft has people around that realizes this. Now if they could only understand that the default answer to security alerts is “allow” as well (atleast after the users learn what cancel does to them), they’d probably understand why those are useless aswell. ;)
Todays lesson? People shouldn’t need to read manuals to get things working, and they don’t read dialog boxes. I’ve always meant that any piece of software should be so straight forward that the manual becomes redundant.