I'm Aza Raskin @aza. I make shiny things. I simplify.

I'm VP at Jawbone, focusing on health.

 

The Over-the-Phone Test

One of the design heuristics we use at Mozilla Labs, especially as we work to create a more invisible browser, is the “Over-the-Phone test”.

If your friends have ever got it into their heads that you might be good at technology, I’m sure you’ve found yourself trying to explain some aspect of computing over the phone. Probably something trivial and difficult to explain. I give you my condolences. Trying to troubleshoot a GUI over the phone is like giving driving directions to train conductor.

For instance, it’s difficult to tell Grandma how to spellcheck in a web mail application that doesn’t have spellcheck:

  • “Ok, Grandma, select everything by clicking anywhere in the text and typing Control-A.”
  • “Now copy the text by typing Control-C.”
  • “Open Word by going to the Start Menu, clicking ‘All Programs’, clicking ‘Microsoft Office’, and finally by clicking ‘Word’.”
  • “Paste your text into Word by typing Control-V… No, Grandma, I don’t know why it’s ‘V’–maybe because ‘P’ is already used for printing?”
  • “Click the little icon on the top of the bar that has a checkmark and some letters. You don’t see it? Okay, describe what you see. You see something that looks like a coffee cup? I have no idea what that is. Actually, forget it. Just select ‘Spell Check’ from the ‘Edit’ menu.”
  • “Click ‘Start Checking’. Grandma, I know you just told it you want to spell check; I don’t know why you have to tell it again.”
  • (Time passes as Grandma spell checks her document.)
  • “Click the ‘Done’ button. Or maybe it’s called ‘Finish’. Uh, just click either the ‘Done’ or the ‘Finish’ button.”
  • “Select everything by typing Control-A.”
  • “Copy the text by typing Control-C.”
  • “Switch back to the email you were writing. What’s that? You can’t see the email you were writing? Well, um… Move some windows around and try finding it.”
  • “Is the text of the email still selected? No? Okay, click anywhere in the text.”
  • “Select everything by typing Control-A.”
  • “Paste in your spell checked text by typing Control-P. Wait, no, Control-V…”
  • “You’re done! wasn’t that easy?”

At every step something can go wrong, your mental model can get out of sync with the state of the computer, or you might remember a button name incorrectly.

Thus our test: We ask ourselves, “Would I be willing to teach my Grandma how to use this over the phone?”. If the answer is “Definitely”, we know we’re doing well; if the answer is “Maybe”, we know we can do better; and if the answer is “No”, then it’s often time to rethink the whole thing.

This is one of the heuristics that informed Ubiquity.

RT @aza The Over-the-Phone Test | Follow @aza on Twitter | All blog posts

View all 114 comments



Evelyn

My first reaction to the entire post was, “Well of course it’s control-V! People use copy and paste so often the shortcuts have to be next to each other!”

And then I realized that it’s not all people, it’s only people (like me) who have to transfer images/data between multiple programs all. the. time.



Graydon

I wonder if either of your grandmothers would appreciate being portrayed as an example of a technologically helpless person.



:)

Or you could go over and install email software with spell-checking built in.



David

Nice post. Maybe you should design TVs, Aza – you would’t believe the number of times my gran rings up, asking me how to find the right channel on her TV. All I can say is – it’s a good job she doesn’t have a computer :P


A better step 1. Go to Firefox.com and click download. :)



Ankur

Not all tasks can be designed for the LCD-type user. =)



Brian Tkatch

Not a bad idea. It does seem like a good test, but i do believe some tasks should be necessarily hierarchical. In that case, losing context is always an issue, but not to hard to get back to.

And about ctrl-v, i still use shift-insert as well.



alfons bedoya

Why not just go by, visit granny, and fix it for her…I am sure she would love the visit…and probably cook something nice for you!


Some of the most annoying problems I have with software could be solved if every developer would just ask themselves this simple question.


thank youJ


This is really a nice post. You have shown a better steps. Some of the weird irritating queries can be solved.


An interesting article for people in central London. Would it be possible to speak to the app developers about gaining data from iphones across the UK and on the different networks so an accurate map could be created? Rather than the worthless pieces of junk the networks provide which have no relation to reality at all.I tested O2 vs T-mobile (ok, not an official provider, but I’ve finished my contract and the O2 one is unlocked) where I live, Sheffield S11. O2 regularly averages less than 100kbps whilst T-mobile got over 1600 kbps.In addition, I tried a Vodafone sim a couple times. I could hardly get a strong enough signal to make a voice call, so I didn’t bother testing data speed.


My gosh I know exactly where you are coming from. My mother calls me I swear every thursday asking how to you send an email again dear.. I tell her to go over to the White Shelves near the window and pick up the scrap book and read the instructions I had to write as I am soooo sick of telling them the same thing over and over again.


    420greyfox on August 24, 2011 ffrrfeeestuef.webs.com is a REAL place to earn cash in your pp account and points to spend on amazon products. Get clothing, electronics, ANYTHING!  wont you join me?


tebrikler, başarılar :)


of course if you didn’t like the tune, you’d have an incentive to speed up.



someone

“You see something that looks like a coffee cup? I have no idea what that is.”
Your grandma does Java.

BTW. Is that a hidden message

For some reason I didn’t like Ubiquity either… sorry? :-/


Nice post Aza. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe there are tasks which we don’t have to run thru this test. Try to get your grandma add an exception for the saved passwords feature in Firefox…
This is what great tutorials with screenshots or screencasts are for. Just send her a link (thru a simple to use program of course), and follow along with her.

Another concept which helps remote support tremendously is error coding, only problem is most of the time we don’t run into errors but just don’t know how to use a feature. But again, that’s the role of a good documentation.

To conclude, I don’t think everything should be made grandma-proof (even if Office 2007 was a huge step forward); But anything should be easily Googlable™.


My first reaction to the entire post was, “Well of course it’s control-V! People use copy and paste so often the shortcuts have to be next to each other!”


i think its very easy..


And then I realized that it’s not all people, it’s only people (like me) who have to transfer images/data between multiple programs all. the. time.



Sex

My first reaction to the entire post was, “Well of course it’s control-V! People use copy and paste so often the shortcuts have to be next to each other!”


It mens belts retains the cheap gucci belts new shape Stretch Jeans cheap louis vuitton belts for men Slender cheap desiger belts September Have gucci belts on sale you ever thought louis vuitton belts cheap it was a method as one million U.S. dollars without sacrificing comfort;


There is a good reason why innovative products seem to flow out of Apple like water from a faucet. Although they may begin with Steve Jobs’s vision, they are due to the way the company is organized. Whereas many companies have siloed divisions that separate user interface designers and hardware designers, at Apple they work together to create holistic products.
Good.


One of the design heuristics we use at Mozilla Labs, especially as we work to create a more invisible browser, is the “Over-the-Phone test”.


ahbbbbbbbbk good


Nice post Aza. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe there are tasks which we don’t have to run thru this test. Try to get your grandma add an exception for the saved passwords feature in Firefox…


thaank you saudi woman


We’re left in an interesting position.


    ksortleryx1 on October 24, 2011 This really does work.. It’s called freebie trading.. I’m a freebie trainer.. Send me a message if you have any questions about it


At every step something can go wrong, your mental model can get out of sync


Why use an app when you can do what bicycles usually do in Toronto, ride like you own the roads, sidewalks, and anything else that they can ride on.


your friends have ever got it into th


China wholesale beads store, with free shipping


haha.. funny posting..


I liked up to you will obtain carried out right here. The comic strip is attractive, your authored subject matter stylish. nonetheless, you command get got an impatience over that you would like be delivering the following. ill for sure come more formerly again as exactly the same just about very ceaselessly within case you shield this increase.


thnks
goooooooooooood
min:)اااkk


I normally learn something after i prevent by here, Eric. Many thanks!


This was a genuinely consequential post. In theory I’d like to initiate like this also – getting time and staunch go to make a beneficent content… but what can I say… I aside alot and in no practice part of to arrange some thing carried out.


I think this is among the most important info for me. And i am glad reading your article. But wanna remark on few general things, The website style is great, the articles is really great : D. Good job, cheers


Hey! I know this is kinda off topic however I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest authoring a blog article or vice-versa? My website discusses a lot of the same topics as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other. If you are interested feel free to shoot me an e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you! Excellent blog by the way!


Please review the Privacy Policy and Terms of Use before using this site.


No sé habría muchas cosas que comentar , de todas formas gracias por lo contado aquí, me parece muy interesante, si bien no estoy del todo de acuerdo. Un saludo todos los que nos leen.


We absolutely love your blog and find most of your post’s to be precisely what I’m looking for. Do you offer guest writers to write content available for you? I wouldn’t mind producing a post or elaborating on a number of the subjects you write about here. Again, awesome web log!


I do accept as true with all the ideas you have presented in your post. They’re really convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too short for novices. May just you please lengthen them a little from next time? Thanks for the post.|


Hi! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading your blog posts. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same topics? Thank you so much!


Hello there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!|


replica bell %%%amp; ross br01 96 watches is known to manufacture watches that have perfection, elegance, quality, precision, beauty and simplicity all in one piece of timeless and classic watch


I’m commenting to make you know what a fabulous discovery my child experienced reading your site. She learned plenty of things, most notably what it is like to possess an awesome giving heart to get other individuals with ease gain knowledge of some very confusing subject matter. You really surpassed people’s desires. Many thanks for imparting the beneficial, trustworthy, informative and in addition unique thoughts on this topic to Sandra.


Oh cool! We have rellies in maine and will put this on our list for positive thanks!


Please let me know if you’re looking for a article writer for your site. You have some really good articles and I feel I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d really like to write some material for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an e-mail if interested. Regards!|Have you ever considered about adding a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is important and everything. Nevertheless think of if you added some great images or video clips to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and clips, this website could undeniably be one of the very best in its field. Awesome blog!|Awesome blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog stand out. Please let me know where you got your theme. Many thanks|Hey would you mind stating which blog platform you’re using? I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m having a tough time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique. P.S My apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!|Hey just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your post seem to be running off the screen in Ie. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know. The design look great though! Hope you get the problem resolved soon. Cheers|With havin so much written content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement? My site has a lot of unique content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my authorization. Do you know any techniques to help protect against content from being stolen? I’d definitely appreciate it.|Have you ever considered publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other websites? I have a blog centered on the same information you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would appreciate your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e mail.|Howdy! Someone in my Myspace group shared this website with us so I came to give it a look. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Outstanding blog and excellent design.|Fantastic blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any recommendations? Thanks!|My developer is trying to persuade me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the expenses. But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using WordPress on numerous websites for about a year and am worried about switching to another platform. I have heard great things about blogengine.net. Is there a way I can import all my wordpress posts into it? Any kind of help would be really appreciated!|Does your site have a contact page? I’m having trouble locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an e-mail. I’ve got some recommendations for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it grow over time.|It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d certainly donate to this excellent blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will share this website with my Facebook group. Chat soon!|Greetings from Los angeles! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to browse your site on my iphone during lunch break. I love the info you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how quick your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, very good blog!|Hey there! I know this is kinda off topic nevertheless I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest authoring a blog post or vice-versa? My website discusses a lot of the same subjects as yours and I feel we could greatly benefit from each other. If you might be interested feel free to shoot me an email. I look forward to hearing from you! Excellent blog by the way!


An impressive share, I simply given this onto a colleague who was doing slightly evaluation on this. And he actually purchased me breakfast as a result of I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to debate this, I really feel strongly about it and love studying more on this topic. If attainable, as you develop into expertise, would you thoughts updating your weblog with more details? It is highly useful for me. Huge thumb up for this weblog submit!


I want to show thanks to the writer for rescuing me from this issue. As a result of researching throughout the online world and finding notions that were not productive, I figured my life was done. Being alive without the answers to the problems you’ve resolved all through your entire website is a serious case, and those which could have in a negative way damaged my entire career if I hadn’t noticed your blog post. Your own personal skills and kindness in maneuvering all the pieces was very helpful. I am not sure what I would’ve done if I had not come upon such a solution like this. I am able to now relish my future. Thanks for your time very much for this impressive and effective guide. I won’t hesitate to endorse your web sites to any individual who needs to have guidance on this situation.


What I have seen in terms of laptop memory is the fact there are requirements such as SDRAM, DDR and so forth, that must match the features of the mother board. If the pc’s motherboard is reasonably current and there are no main system issues, upgrading the memory literally takes under an hour or so. It’s one of many easiest pc upgrade types of procedures one can consider. Thanks for revealing your ideas.


Do you have a spam issue on this website; I also am a blogger, and I was wanting to know your situation; many of us have developed some nice procedures and we are looking to swap methods with others, why not shoot me an email if interested.


I just stumbled upon your blog and it’s amazing and fabulous! I’m also a online money earning junkie. :) I’ll be sure to follow you


Hello. Very polite blog!! Man .. First-rate .. Amazing .. I’ll bookmark your web site and obtain the feeds additionally…I’m contented to attain several practical information right here within the send. Thanks for sharing.


I and also my guys appeared to be looking at the great solutions found on your site while all of a sudden got a horrible suspicion I had not expressed respect to you for those tips. Those boys were consequently joyful to study all of them and have in effect simply been tapping into those things. Appreciation for indeed being considerably accommodating and for choosing this kind of marvelous subject areas most people are really needing to learn about. Our own honest apologies for not expressing gratitude to sooner.


This is a appropriate blog for would like to locate out about this topic. You realize a good deal its almost challenging to argue along (not that I personally would want…HaHa). You actually put the latest spin with a subject thats been discussed for a long time. Fantastic stuff, just fantastic!


Absolutely briliant is your way of writing, and the posts multiplicity . I should invite everybody to visit my website – http://www.ilikerewal.pl.


Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve visited this site before but after browsing through some of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m definitely happy I stumbled upon it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!


Hey I am so glad I found your website, I really found you by accident, while I was researching on Yahoo for something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say thanks for a remarkable post and a all round thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to look over it all at the moment but I have saved it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read much more, Please do keep up the excellent job.


One more thing is that while searching for a good internet electronics store, look for online stores that are continuously updated, keeping up-to-date with the hottest products, the top deals, along with helpful information on products. This will ensure you are doing business with a shop that really stays atop the competition and gives you things to make knowledgeable, well-informed electronics expenditures. Thanks for the essential tips I have learned through the blog.


Thanks for the tips about credit repair on all of this blog. The thing I would offer as advice to people is usually to give up the actual mentality they will buy currently and fork out later. Being a society many of us tend to do that for many factors. This includes trips, furniture, along with items we’d like. However, you need to separate a person’s wants out of the needs. If you are working to raise your credit score you have to make some sacrifices. For example you are able to shop online to economize or you can turn to second hand merchants instead of costly department stores regarding clothing.


Can I simply say what a aid to find someone who really is aware of what theyre speaking about on the internet. You positively know the way to deliver a problem to mild and make it important. Extra folks have to learn this and understand this facet of the story. I cant imagine youre not more common because you definitely have the gift.


I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored subject matter stylish. nonetheless, you command get got an nervousness over that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come further formerly again since exactly the same nearly very often inside case you shield this hike.


Howdy. Self-same cool blog!! Guy .. Charming .. Amazing .. I’ll bookmark your locate and take the feeds also…I am jovial to attain numerous effective in sequence here in the article. Gratitude for sharing…


Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely comeback.


Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve truly loved browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing for your feed and I am hoping you write again soon!


Great web site. Lots of useful information here. I am sending it to a few friends ans also sharing in delicious. And of course, thanks for your sweat!


I am grateful for your post. I want to write my opinion that the price of car insurance varies from one coverage to another, for the reason that there are so many different facets which give rise to the overall cost. Such as, the model and make of the motor vehicle will have a significant bearing on the charge. A reliable outdated family car will have an inexpensive premium than a flashy expensive car.


Youre not the overall blog article journalist, chap. You absolutely have a touch important to bring about the web. Such a fantastic blog. Ailing take back once more pertaining to further.


article is very nice and unique. thank you. Artikel kesehatan cari tahu tentang Cara mengobati cacar air


article on this site very useful. thanks – Sedang mencari rumah minimalis ? baca artikel tentang Info rumah minimalis secara gratis


I like the helpful info you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog
and check again here regularly. I am quite sure I will learn plenty of new stuff right here!
Best of luck for the next!


Fantastic beat ! I would like to apprentice at the same time as you amend your web site, how could i subscribe for a weblog web site?
The account aided me a applicable deal. I were tiny bit familiar of this your broadcast provided brilliant clear concept


love to see how your style adapts and changes. The orchids were lovely the first time


I have found precisely what I am just seeking in the posting. My spouse and i appreciated this kind of a whole lot


I must say that I was impressed. Very rarely do I come across a blog that is both educational and entertaining touch. Just letting you know that you have most definatly hit the nail on the head. Your mind is ideal. Thx is all I can say.


I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. I will mark your blog and my children check here often. I m sure they will learn lots of new things here than anyone else!


An interesting dialogue is worth comment. I think you should write extra on this subject, it will not be a taboo subject but generally people are not enough to talk about these issues. To the next. Hail


I was very encouraged to find this site. I want to thank you for this special read. I definitely enjoyed every bit of it and I ve marked you to check out new stuff you write.


Thank you for another essential article. Where else can you get this kind of information to write full way? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such information.


The beauty of these blogging engines and CMS platforms is the lack of limitations and ease of manipulation that allows developers to implement rich content and skin the site in such a way that with very little effort never see why the site tick all without limiting the content and efficiency.


This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. You know so much it s almost hard to argue with you (not that I really want . haha). You definitely put a new spin on a topic that has been written over the years. Great stuff, just great!


This is a smart blog. Really. You have so much knowledge about this issue, and so much passion. You also know how to make people rally behind it, obviously from the responses. It has a design here that s not too flashy, but makes as big as what you say statement. Great job, in fact.


What you say is absolutely true. I know that everybody must say the same, but I think you put it in a way that everyone can understand. I also love the images you put in here. They fit well with what you re saying. I m sure you will reach so many people with what you say.


This is my first time I visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the fun here! Keep up the good work.


Simple, wonderful what you ve done here. It is pleasing to look you express from the center and your clarity on this significant content can be easily seen. Extraordinary items and expect your future updates.


Aw, this was a message that was really good. In theory I d like to write like this too taking time and real effort to make a good article . but what can I say . I procrastinate a lot and never seem to do something.


Far, this post is very sweet on this important topic. I am in harmony with the conclusions and are eagerly waiting for the update entry. Saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the wonderful clarity in your writing. I will immediately grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates. Wonderful work and much success in your business! Please excuse my poor English as it is not my first language.


Let me start by saying beautiful message. Not sure if this has been discussed about, but when using Chrome I can never get the entire site to load without refreshing many times. May be my computer. Thank you.


I can see you put a lot of effort into your blog. Keep posting the good work. Some really helpful information there. Bookmark. Nice to see your site. Thank you!


No? U better written. Reading this post reminds me of my old roommate! He was always talking about it. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!


Resources like the one you mentioned here will be very useful to me! I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that the most useful.


I thought it was going to be a boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that the most useful


Great post! I m just beginning in community management communication marketing and trying to learn how to do it well resources like this article useful. As our company is based in the U. S. , it? S all a bit new to us. The example above is something that worries me as well, how to show your own enthusiasm and share the fact that your product is useful in this regard


Hrmm that s weird, my comment ate. However, I would say it is good to know that someone else also mentioned this as I have trouble finding the same information elsewhere. This was the first place that gave me the answer. Thank you.


I must admit that this is one great insight. Surely gives a company the opportunity to get on the ground floor and really take part in creating something special and tailored to their needs.


Hey, just looking around some blogs, seems a very good platform you are using. I m currently using WordPress for some of my sites but looking to change one of them similar to yours as a test platform. Anything in particular you would recommend about it?


With the whole thing that seems to be building within this subject matter, all your viewpoints are generally somewhat refreshing. Even so, I appologize, but I can not subscribe to your entire plan, all be it exhilarating none the less. It appears to everybody that your opinions are generally not completely justified and in actuality you are generally your self not really wholly confident of the argument. In any event I did appreciate examining it.


I see you put a lot of work in this site! Keep writing!


Although I am no noob in the website industry, your site really is something different and features some helpful thoughts. Enjoying it to the fullest! I ll incorporate you in my blogroll, i think it will provide more value to my visitors.


An fascinating dialogue is worth comment. I feel that you must write extra on this topic, it won t be a taboo subject but usually people are not enough to talk on such topics. To the next. Cheers


Super blog post, I count on updates by you.


This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. You know so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I really would want. HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!


Aw, this was a really great post. In theory I d like to write like this also taking time and real effort to make a good article. but what can I say. I procrastinate alot and never seem to get something done.


I can see that you are putting a lots of efforts into your blog. Keep posting the good work. Some really helpful information in there. Bookmarked. Nice to see your site. Thanks!


Great post! I?m just starting out in community management marketing media and trying to learn how to do it well resources like this article are incredibly helpful. As our company is based in the US, it?s all a bit new to us. The example above is something that I worry about as well, how to show your own genuine enthusiasm and share the fact that your product is useful in that case


Hey, just looking around some blogs, seems a pretty nice platform you are using. I m currently using WordPress for a few of my sites but looking to change one of them over to a platform similar to yours as a trial run. Anything in particular you would recommend about it?


“%KW%”


Leave a Comment