April 2021. Mount Hood, Oregon – A midnight alarm stirs me from my bunk at the Timberline Lodge. There’s a wall of snow outside the window, making the wood-walled chalet especially dark. A prime setting for a Stephen King novel (and incidentally the exterior filming location of The Shining). I fumble for the sink, and when I turn on the light, I cringe—expecting to find REDRUM scrawled on the mirror. Not today, I think, staring at the glass of murder movies. Not today.
At work, I inherited this tool to help people use a poorly designed product. While the long-term solution was to address core issues in the product, this supporting tool had low-hanging fruit, such as glaring usability holes. Rather than preach about these gaps, I leveraged the ever-relevant heuristic from writing: Show, don’t tell.
Time is the great equalizer. Everyone gets 24 hours per day, 365-366 days per year, 73.2 years in a lifetime. But how much of this time is actually usable on things we want to do? Imagine an arcade filled with game machines. To play, the machines require tokens, and one token is worth one hour of time.