Watching People Use a Computer

By Zhenyi Tan

When I was 17, I took the driving license test.

The test has two parts: a theory test and a road test. The theory test had 50 multiple-choice questions that were selected from a list of 500 questions.

The questions were in Malay, and my Malay was poor. But the questions and the order of the multiple-choice options always stayed the same. So, I just memorized all the answers. (Later, I scored a perfect 100% on the test.)

One day, while waiting at the driving school for my instructor to drive me home, I noticed a computer in the waiting room. It was intended for students to take mock tests, but the program wasn’t open. The computer just sat there, showing the default greenish Windows desktop.

Back then, computer literacy in Malaysia was relatively low. I saw people trying to take the mock test but struggling to launch the program. With no other form of entertainment available, I became interested in observing these interactions.

(Disclaimer: I only watched, like, 3 people.)

Mouse: The mouse was intuitive for everyone. They instinctively reached out, grabbed it, and understood the relationship between the mouse’s movement and the pointer on the screen.

Clicking: Clicking was also intuitive, as people naturally tried to use the buttons on the mouse.

Double-clicking: No one seemed to figure out how to double-click to launch the mock test program. They kept single-clicking the icon and wondered why nothing happened. Double-clicking was not intuitive.

Start button: Some people clicked on the start button when they didn’t know what else to do. Maybe they thought the computer is a single-purpose machine and assumed that pressing ‘Start’ would start the program. In a way, the start button was somewhat intuitive.

Windows menu: But the gigantic Windows menu that appeared startled them. It was probably not what they had expected. None of them managed to launch the mock test from the ‘All Programs’ submenu. The Windows menu was not intuitive.