Why sporks don’t work

By Matthew Borland | Sales Director | Magenta Technology

The problem with a ‘spork’ is that it’s trying to be too many things for too many people, and fails at being useful to anyone.

I figured this out last week as I tried to consume a delicious bowl of chilli chicken udon soup, purchased from a local takeaway establishment near our office, and was supplied with the recommended utensil to eat it with – a ‘spork’. A spork is the obvious amalgamation of two tried and tested utensils – a spoon and a fork – and was probably dreamt up by someone in a marketing department who has possibly never eaten with either device. If they had, why would they bother to take two versatile and practical items of cutlery, in use for millennia, and combine them to make something that is neither practical nor versatile?

I pondered over this point as I tried to dry my shirt under the public bathroom hand dryer, having had to sponge down said shirt due to the unabated dribbling of soup down the front of it.  At first I wondered if, in some instances (perhaps the hands of an expert spork wrangler), it could outperform a spoon and fork. Or perhaps the spork, through lower productions costs, provided greater profit to the eatery than forks and spoons (although they provide them all as well as chopsticks). Or perhaps someone was just trying to be clever.

I suspect it was simply the latter, which brings me to my point: The spork fails in the same way as software often fails, because the designer or creator had an idea and actioned it without bothering to check whether it was useful, practical, or even needed. So many times, within this industry, we are presented with functionality that has been created to address a problem, without the problem actually existing or, worse still, without fully understanding the problem in the first place. What should be a valuable feature or function ends up creating additional work, having terrible ergonomics (clunky as we call it) or just not being useable. At Magenta Technology we have a Mantra: “It has to be fit for purpose”, and to guarantee this we ensure that we really understand the problem, consult with those who are experiencing the challenge and know what is needed, and then design and develop a user friendly solution that delivers results.

So, next time you use a piece of software (or spork) and complain about it, remember this article, my plight and musings, and ask yourself: “What would I have done to make this better?”

Matthew Borland | matthew.borland@magenta-technology.com | twitter: @matt_j_borland

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