An Anonymous PC

January 17th, 2012

Today’s second Skunky goes to an anonymous PC at my dentist’s office. It is used to play videos that patients can watch while the dentist is grinding away at their teeth. I assume that this calms some people. I chose not to watch anything – they didn’t have any Lassie reruns – so I spent the time looking up at the monitor with a simple error message on it. It said something like:

“No disk in drive or the disk format is unreadable by this drive.”

I couldn’t help thinking, “What a stupid message!” After all, the software should be able to tell the difference between an empty drive and a drive with an unrecognizable disk. Is Windows really so stupid that it can’t tell the difference? Or is the DVD player software? Somebody’s an idiot, but who?

But that’s only the first mistake. The second mistake arises in the case where there is a disk in the drive but it’s in an unreadable format. One of my simple design rules is, “Don’t describe the problem, present the solution!” These people are just describing the problem when they declare that the disk is the wrong format. They’re not even telling the user the solution, which in this case is that there is no solution. They’re presenting the technical explanation – why in the world are they burdening the user with the technical problem? The correct wording would have been:

“I’m sorry, but I can’t figure out how to read this disk; it’s strange to me. You’ll have to try another disk.”