Functionality isn’t necessarily usability

As I researched the Search Filter Host problems plaguing my Surface Pro 3 — which results in hot temperatures and low battery life — I am reminded that functionality isn’t the same thing as usability.

The search index is a good idea. Windows builds an index of your files as unobtrusively it can, so when you search for something, results instantly appear. It’s a wonderful thing when it works. This is an example of high functionality; all modern operating systems should have it.

However, Microsoft’s implementation comes at a sacrifice to usability. While you can specify which locations and file types to include in the index, Windows will try to index everything within those specifications. Good, right? Nope.

The problem is that something unseen may cause certain files or file types to be unprocessable. Yet, no matter how long it takes (forever?), the program will keep trying again and again to index a troublesome file. And so it gets stuck, wasting CPU cycles and battery, and not moving on to other files.

If you’re having this problem, check out this post, which investigates the issue to great depth and found the solution: installing Adobe’s iFilter 64-bit. Basically, the Surface Pro 3 was missing something that caused PDF files to force the index process to slow to a crawl. PDFs…hardly the most exotic file type!

Indexing every file you ask it to is high functionality; but it is also low usability because inevitably the indexer fails to process a file.

The fix is simple. If the indexer can’t process a file in a timely manner, it should simply skip it.

Send that list along to Microsoft HQ to analyze, so someone can find out why certain file types failed, and what can be done to fix it.

High functionality, high usability.

If you’re an entrepreneur or product manager, it is an important lesson to keep in mind. Features are important, but the overall experience is even more so.

2 thoughts on “Functionality isn’t necessarily usability

  1. Very great insight. As a developer, I always struggle to decipher what the features to push while maintaining a balance between useful feature and great experience. This one of the reasons, I really like windows phone overall experience over anything else that in the mobile spectrum. While Android offers a plethora of features, which I think is great as long as there is a use case for them, there are things that diminishes the overall user experience. Plus, it does not help when features are not used by 90% of your user base because power users really constitute a small percentage of the user base,though, they are still very important.

    Your advise is something that most if not every developer and designer should keep in mind. By the way, have the issues that you were having with the surface been solved after you stopped indexing your files. One simple solution that Microsoft should implement is to index the file when the device is connected to a source of power instead of the batter just lime it is in mobile when certain tasks can be completed if certain power source conditions is present. Or, download big files only when present when the device is connected to Wi-fi. Do you still plan in keeping it? I just made the decision that I would get the Pro 3 version with an i5, 256 GB which I will be use primarily for development.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi John, thanks for your comment! Your suggestion for dealing with the indexing problem is a good one.

      Unfortunately, the indexing problems didn’t stop for my SP3 after the process completed; every new file saved restarted the laboriously long process. Fortunately, there is a fix! Downloading Adobe’s iFilter in 64-bit solved it completely. Now my SP3 indexes in seconds. Check out the above for a link.

      Am I keeping the SP3? The price kills me, but I do like the device. My review goes up tomorrow — tune in for the answer. =)


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