Creating tools that people will use

A new tool or gizmo is purchased.  You are eagerly anticipating what it will do for you and how it will make your life better.  After a few weeks though the magic wears off and you find yourself using it less and less.  This is a common scenario.  While there is no silver bullet that can alleviate this we can understand it which will lead to better decisions.

Ultimately this can be summed up in the following equation:

Chance of Use = Benefit + Excitement – Effort

As long as this stays positive,  your chance of use is good.

This equation brings breaks down like so:

  • Excitement – this is always high at the beginning but will wane over time.  Usually,  over time it will decrease to just about zero.  This is the component that creates the initial flurry of use.
  • Benefit is what you get out of it or how it makes your life better.
  • Effort is how much work you have to put in in order to create the desired outcome.  This can be affected by various means.
  • Chance of use is just that.  Positive values mean you will use it,  negative values mean you probably won’t.


  • Excitement can unbalance an equation and make a chance of use positive that would normally be negative.  Estimating how much excitement there is is important as it will almost always decrease to nearly zero.
  • Effort and benefit will fluctuate marginally as wear increases and as your skill level increases but apart from this they are reasonably stable.
  • User interface is extremely important.  It has a great effect on how much effort is required.  This is the bit that a lot of people fail to realise.
  • Estimating these values is often very hard.  A lot of the time they will be qualitative rather than quantitative.

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