This concept of “ease of use” is something that Ford strives to achieve with every project. However, “ease of use” is not a concept easily grasped, as this is entirely in the eye of the beholder. For someone who puts together a concept and deploys a solution, the ease of use for that individual may be quite simple. However, without testing the system with a different set of eyes from multiple age groups and filling out a questionnaire about specifics of ease of use it’s impossible to say the system is easy to use.
There are many trades offs which can easily compromise the ease of use concept. We all strive to deploy options which any individual can walk into a room and, with no training, operate the system. On the other hand, there are often very long lists of “features” that, though not required, are desired. The more features you add the harder it becomes to achieve the ease of use desired. Let’s look at an example as to why.
Job 1. A customer wants a display with a controller and a DVD player. This is a simple setup with “easy” controls. The controller could be a touch screen with a simple one screen setup. On this screen can be a clearly defined “power on” button and immediate DVD controls. This system could be considered easy to use by almost any generation of user as most individuals have used a DVD player and the buttons and controls are very recognizable.
Job 2. The same customer wants the same display and DVD player in another room only this time they want to add video conferencing.
Let’s break this down step by step. The touch screen controls, which used to be a simple turn on, and DVD controls have changed dramatically. We must now have a home screen which allows you to select between the different features desired. The easily recognizable DVD controls are still there but behind an option button. Now, behind the Video conferencing button are a bunch of controls which not everyone is used to since this fantastic conferencing tool has not been around as long as DVD players. Thus, there will be a generational ease of use issue. Making the controls as recognizable as possible on the touch screen is imperative. There will be other requirements from the manufacturers’ system which will be “out of your control” as far as ease of use is concerned. This is where experience and training documents come into play. With experience, an integrator can recommend the “best” manufacturer and prepare precise step-by-step training documents that are readily available to all users.
The above examples show how the ease of use can be diminished with the addition of additional features. There are other key components, however, to making a system easy to use for all users. Training plays a pivotal role in this. Many people learn best by hands on training, and this should never be overlooked in any audio-video system. Key personnel should be thoroughly trained by walking through each step of every feature until they can not only operate the system but also comprehend how it works. The key personnel should also be handed training documents that they can use to train others within the organization.