Matt Gemmell

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Human requirements for software

tech 1 min read

I’ve often thought it would be useful to introduce “human requirements” for certain types of software. Most software has certain hardware and software requirements, so why shouldn’t there also be certain minimum “specifications” that the user should satisfy?

There could be a series of standardised sets of requirements which you could refer to by name each time, perhaps published by ISO or some such organisation. Then your software’s human requirements could be like this:

  • [Standard Computer Literacy 2.3]

  • [Standard Mac OS X Literacy 1.4]

  • (your specific software requirements here)

    Standard Computer Literacy could include things like a sound grasp of the whole WIMP set of concepts, the ability to manipulate files as icons, and to understand the hierarchical nature of most filesystems. Familiarity with the difference between Close and Quit. That kind of thing.

    Standard Mac OS X Literacy would add further stipulations, perhaps ability to use the Dock, understanding of the basic role of folders within your Home directory, how to log in and log out, and so on.

    The internet community could collaborate to formulate, formalise and continuously review and revise these “Standard Human Requirements”. They could be numbered like ISO standards or RFCs, and always available at an appropriate “.org” domain. VersionTracker’s product submission form would include checkboxes beside the Requirements field so you could include some standard human requirements sets.

    Aside from being cathartic, it has the potential to remove a lot of the stress from shareware support - finally you can assume a base useful level of tech literacy in each user when you receive their support-request emails, otherwise you can point out that the product’s requirements are clearly stated.

    Skirting the question of discrimination laws and related matters, it would be a damned enjoyable exercise. So how about it? Let’s get together and start drafting Standard Mac OS X Literacy Requirements 1.0!