Work with computers? You’re wasting more time than you think just solving tech problems

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Computers may be much more advanced than they were 15 years ago — but a new study finds despite vast improvements in computer technology, a staggering 11 to 20 percent of our time spent on computers is still plagued by crashes and other failures. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen and Roskilde University say the frustrations lead to wasted time, lost productivity, and a need for countless system changes.

“It’s incredible that the figure is so high,” says Professor Kasper Hornbæk, the study’s author.

“Most people experience frustration when using computers and can tell a horror story about an important PowerPoint presentation that was not saved or a system that crashed at a critical moment. Everyone knows that it is difficult to create IT systems that match people’s needs, but the figure should be much lower, and one thing that it shows is that ordinary people aren’t involved enough when the systems are developed,” Hornbæk adds in a university release.

The study involved 234 participants, including IT professionals and proficient computer users, and identified situations where computers failed or hindered task completion. Common issues reported included slow system performance, temporary freezing, crashes, and difficulty finding necessary functions. Surprisingly, the study found that these fundamental problems persist today, just as they did 15 to 20 years ago.

With 88 percent of Danes using computers at work, the study reveals that a substantial portion of a normal working week is wasted due to computer problems. Hornbæk emphasizes the significance of minimizing these issues, not only for increased productivity but also to reduce individual frustration. The researchers propose investing resources in redesigning system error notifications to shield users from unnecessary information and allowing computers to autonomously resolve problems.

office worker bored
(Credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

To address the persistent frustrations, the researchers suggest involving users more actively in the design and development of computer systems. By prioritizing ease of use and comprehensibility, IT developers can ensure that systems align better with users’ needs. Prof. Hornbæk asserts that the problem lies not with users but with the systems themselves, highlighting the importance of creating user-friendly systems.

The study underscores the need for improved computer systems that minimize malfunctions and enhance user experiences. By investing in user-centric approaches and involving users in system design, researchers aim to reduce frustrations and optimize productivity. The findings shed light on the pressing need for more user-friendly systems and provide hope for a future with fewer computer-related headaches.

The study is published in the journal ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction.

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