My friend Darrel asked me whether I used a Razer laptop, and if so what I thought of the trackpad. My answer : I don’t use the trackpad on any Windows machine, because the experience is terrible — I just carry a mouse around. And the reason I know it’s terrible is because I also carry a Macbook around, which has a great trackpad.

This got me thinking (again) about something that pops up really frequently in everything I do. So frequently, in fact, that I’m hereby coining a term for it :

Micro-annoyance : “an annoying snag in a user experience that’s so small that it never gets fixed.”

The thing about micro-annoyances, in the context of programming, is that it’s relatively easy to create them. It would also be trivially easy to fix them, but because we’re under pressure to ship something, often we just ship without fixing them — after all, it’s only a micro-annoyance, right ? It’s easy to work around it, and we can always fix it later. Just ship the damn thing already ! Sure, there are super-obsessive jerks out there like Steve Jobs who care about every damn little detail and yell at people if something’s a micron out of place, but that’s dysfunctional, and we’re not dysfunctional. Just get on with it.

When people encounter micro-annoyances in software, they usually just shrug and work around them so they can get their job done. We’ve got to get the job done ! Who has the time to make a bug report, knowing that probably it’ll just end up at the bottom of a priority stack in some JIRA list somewhere ? Not me. Just get on with it.

But here’s the thing about micro-annoyances : they add up.

What’s wrong with the Windows trackpad is just a bunch of micro-annoyances that stacked up. The force-sensitivity is just a little off; the responsiveness is just a little off; the steppiness of scrolling text is just a little off; the way it distinguishes between single finger and dual-finger gestures is just a little off; and so on.

Individually, none of those micro-annoyances is that big a deal, just a tiny bit of cognitive load, a little slowdown, a little jankiness.

So you put up with them, right ? And it just gets slowly worse and worse over the years, and like the boiled frog, you just adapt. You don’t even realise how crappy it is, because the micro-workarounds become part of your muscle memory. That crappy experience becomes a part of you.

And then one day you try the Mac trackpad and then you realise, Windows is just a heap of crap, and you deserve better.

So: examine your workflows for micro-annoyances you’ve got so used to that they’re now beneath attention. Fix them.

Even better : don’t ship them in the first place.

Disclosure: I write all my software on Windows, and do all my other stuff on the Mac — I love and hate them both equally, for different reasons. And my stuff is full of micro-annoyances.

I once made the mistake of letting other people use my software; the result was Now I’m trying to figure out how to fix what’s really broken.

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