I think the best way to sum up my feelings at the end of the usability test would have been “despairing”. A lot of work went into what we did, and yet—somehow—it all went totally wrong. But why?

We’d thought that users knew/understood that “Saved Settings” were present, were documents, and as such—since the way scheduling worked was based on that model, and many had used them previously to manually schedule SuperDuper!—were an everyday part of SuperDuper! usage.

But once I had stepped back and thought a little more—and regained my user perspective—that clearly wasn’t the case. The only reason users even got near documents, for the most part, was to do a one-time scheduling setup. And most users didn’t even bother with that.

Users basically run SuperDuper! in immediate “mode”. That is, they start it—SD! conveniently restores their settings—and they click “Start Copying”. That’s it. Smart Update is fast enough that the backup takes but a few minutes. Then, quit. No need to save settings: SD!’s doing it for them, in the background.

Given that, it was clear that “mixing” the immediate usage model and the scheduled usage model was flawed: they’re two entirely different ways of dealing with the program. Combining them—no matter how well it might follow the internal model of what was going on—didn’t follow the external/users’s mental model. So, they couldn’t get their head around it without work, even when they could find the buried functionality: absolutely terrible usability.

So, I reviewed how I’d arrived at this point, and suddenly the answer was right in front of me! All I needed to do was roll back to the original design! Before we started working through the implementation, I’d solved the whole problem:

  • The scheduling functionality was right up front, in the main UI
  • The scheduled/immediate parts of the program were distinct from one another
  • The whole concept of “Saved Settings” was hidden from the user during the scheduling process, and they didn’t need to worry about it at all

So, I wrote the whole sad saga up, and sheepishly presented it to Bruce. He wasn’t happy about it, as we’d have to throw away a lot of work but—fortunately—I pointed out that the vast majority it could be re-used: after all, while the effect on usability should be significant, there were no “new” elements, just existing items that moved around.

Some judicious rewording of the buttons—from “Start Copying” to “Copy Now”—and “Copy Later” fit in the main window. Thus (some tweaks left to go, but this is the current build):

(In what you’re looking at, the red entry has failed to run: clicking Show Log will give the reason why.)

Of course, there are many parts here you can’t see: the way the “Scheduled Copies” window comes up and moves forward when it’s time to schedule, emphasizing the second type of use; the sheet that actually gives you the way to select the repeating timeframe; the new log window that makes it easier to contact support; schedule editing. But you get the general idea: it’s quite simple.

The second test commenced with the same four users, and it went great. Every one completed their task with no confusion, save for one point: most didn’t unlock the application, so the schedules never ran. Once we took care of that: bingo.

We’ve got scheduling!