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Document 360: #1 Knowledge Base Software

Patience Thresholds for Technology

by Tom Johnson on Jan 13, 2007 •
categories: technical-writing

In this video, an employee becomes frustrated with the inability to do a print-screen and finds a convenient workaround. This was one of the top videos on Digg today.

print screen vid

Although some users like to troubleshoot and solve problems, there is another class of users that have an exceptionally low tolerance for technical problems. We all have our different thresholds. Last year my wife broke our laptop by banging on it out of technical frustration. Many find that if something isn't immediately understandable, their level of stress surges. Their blood starts running hot, and you better look out.

Even if users don't react violently to technostress, they most likely express their anger in some way or another -- never using the product again, turning to some other activity, doing what they know. Software should just work, and it should be easy, says David Platt. But that is difficult if the software is sophisticated. At least the help should be apparent, relevant, immediately accessible. Can you imagine this guy hitting F1 and trying to troubleshoot?

What is your patience threshold for technical problems? How long before you get really upset inside and give up? Two minutes, twenty minutes, two hours, two days, two weeks?

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.

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