Software: Time-Saving friend or Inefficient foe?

Time is universally accepted as one of the most valuable assets, but we frustratingly and unnecessarily waste so much of it.

If the average adult is awake for 15 hours 45 minutes, it is estimated that an average of 8 hours is spent in front of a screen of some sort. For 45 to 54-year-olds, this jumps to over 9 hours. With much of our weekday time spent at work, user friendliness of applications is much more than increasing utilisation. The easier the range of tools we use are, the more efficient our completion of tasks. We all know that time can pass by at such a rate that the day, weeks and months seem to vanish into thin air – software should not be a contributing factor to this.

Technical downtime, such as computer crashes, unexpected operating system updates, loss of connectivity, or network breakdown are somewhat inevitable. Measures can be put in place to limit the disruption, but with this often happening at an enterprise level, individual users have very limited influence. A user’s approach to selecting software, however, can positively affect their efficiency and productivity. User-friendly, in this case, signifies the selection of a product that helps the user to complete the range of tasks required without being inhibited by the software design itself.

Value to the Business

Our time is personally valuable, but for our employer’s, time is a measurable overhead. When multiplied times over for all employees in the organisation it can make the difference between a profit or a loss. So it is in all interests to find software that adds value to the business. Software that will function in a way that accomplishes the objectives of the users and of the business.


When we purchase or lease any product we expect that the product will perform as stated for the duration of its life cycle. Any product that fulfils the requirement of the task but breaks down regularly is a liability to the user and to the business. To the user frustration and stress will be experienced. To the business, it will be a loss of value and unacceptable costs due to loss of time.

Quality and Efficiency

A reliable product can lead to an efficient product – but that is not always the case. To be User-Friendly the software must be reliable but also efficient and be able to achieve tasks with the most economic use of time and energy. This can be broken down to the time it takes to enter data, keys pressed, mouse clicks, accessing a record or saving a record. The quality is reflected in software by the ease at which the user can enter and interrogate the data and report upon it and the time it takes to achieve this.

Intuitive and Level of Training

When implementing software, the level of training that is required to use it should not be burdensome or never ending. The interface should make sense to the average user. The data field names should not be obscure, should be easily identified. The common features should be intuitive and follow industry recognised icons or easily understood terms of definition. Software that requires lots of explanation on how to use it is self-defeating and time-consuming.

Single Point of Data Entry

For any user, being able to enter data in a single location on-screen is both time saving and satisfying. It leads to fewer errors and duplication. Common data should be easily allocated or associated with the single point of data entry screen or page. Not having to explore through the system in order to find a related piece of information saves time and also makes it easy for the retrieval of where the process or data entry first began.

Easy Access to Relational Data

Where data records have relational data records associated with them, it should be easy to access and locate them from the original record and return back to the original record without the need to write things down. The layout of the data on-screen should be clear and easily identifiable, especially if the data is drawn on screen from an associated data table or record.

Identifiable Data Alerts

Where data is input or processes update records, for example; a driver licence check, that seeks an update for the details of a driver licence, resulting alerts should be easily located. Alerts for any action upon recorded information should be in a single view point where possible. The user should be able to easily determine what alerts and actions have to be done in order to fulfil any duty of care or critical business requirement.

Result and Selective Reporting

Having a software solution that holds lots of data should be able to allow the user to mine that data for any results and reports that are required for the running of the business. If reporting is complex or requires lots of interrogation, then this is counterproductive to all of the effort involved in entering the data in the first place. Enquiries should be easy with reasonable selection filters. The output should be clear enough to recognise and drill down to any further information should it be required.

Although the term user-friendly can be highly subjective, it is important to keep in mind whether the chosen solution can help the business and the user achieve what they need to do quickly. If you are wasting time using the software itself, you’re missing out on the opportunity to be efficient.

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