Those people complaining about the clunky records system – do they want it to be easier or better?

In every system, we get to make a design choice – do we make it easier or better?

It’s the iphone question. When the first iphone was released, it was not easier to use than a nokia and it’s still not. Nokia – unlock, dial, call – simple. So who wants to go back to that easier model? Who even really thinks about a phone as a device for calling now? What people wanted was better.

When we always assume people want easier, we leave a massive opportunity on the table – the opportunity to make the system better.

Most people I talk to think it’s easier that users want. They talk about user complaints about clunky interfaces and how hard it is to get people to use it – because of the clunky interface. The simple truth is that if the interface doesn’t do anything they care about, it isn’t going to matter how easy we make it, and people don’t care about records.

The other problem is that the largest barriers to making a system “easy” are imposed by us. We don’t really want to make a system easy – if we did, the first thing we would do is abandon FAT classifications and let users organise their information for their own convenience. Records systems get much easier with no structure, no governance and no controls applied (even if it’s eventually a total mess), but I find few people who are willing to compromise like this.

I think this unwillingness to compromise has lead to where we are now – a place where we take really seriously the idea that users would just use a records system if it was easy enough. The truth is that it doesn’t matter how easy we make make records systems because records is our job, not theirs, and they only care about their job, if we don’t give them a way to do their job better in the records system, they’ll continue to not want to use it.

So there’s only one definition of a better records system that makes sense.

“A better records system helps a user do a better job at their job.”

Better is what makes people go to the gym, it’s what makes them go to university, it’s what makes them apply for more difficult jobs – and it’s what can get them to use records systems, no matter how many additional milliseconds each click takes.

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