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Functional Requirements

The company I work for often receives "Functional Requirements" questionnaires.  All of our clients are in one industry and these questionnaires seem to all be copied from somewhere.  Typically half of the questions have nothing to do with the product they are looking to purchase and I have my doubts as to whether they actually read the answers or understand half the questions.  Here are a couple sample items that seem to appear on all of them:

"Pedagogic vector for all actions"
"Pedagogic vector has teaching link to: direct manipulation, keyboard and buttcon shortcuts"
"monocline grouping of pedagogic vector"
"interface totally avoids dialog boxes with meta-questions"
"vendor commits to removing excise tasks found by users"

After doing some research it seems many of the uncommon terms in these items come from a pretentious book called "About Face" by Alan Cooper.  I know our customers have not read this book and many of the questionnaires are almost exactly the same, so I know they are copying these things from somewhere.

How does one go about answering some of these and more importantly why do companies use these useless questionnaires?

Anonymous
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

If you want their business, you answer their questions. It is not your option to question their choice of selection criteria.

If you are sure these are non-sensical stock questions and they don't really pay any attentiion to your answers to them, then craft some stock answer full of industry buzzwords which have similarly nebulous meanings.

old_timer
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I think they are good questions and yes, I love Alan Cooper's books.

I think he uses that kind of language partly "tongue in cheek" in order to bring the designers up (or down ?) to the level of the programmer. In other words, to jolt the programmers into having to deal with complex language and obtuse concepts.

Then the "real discussion" can begin.

Kentasy
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

"In other words, to jolt the programmers into having to deal with complex language and obtuse concepts."

Yeah, I can see why making things artificially more difficult is such a wonderful idea. It's not hard enough to be a developer, to be pulling ideas from the heads of the marketing morons. Now we have to act like Alan Cooper and pretend we are much more than what we really are.

(Yes, I think Cooper is a prime example of someone who has been reading too much of their own press.)

To the OP, I think Old Timer nailed it. If you want the business then ya gotta play ball.

I Hate Whiners
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Heh. That's the point - things have been "artificially more difficult " than they needed to be for too long.

Kentasy
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I guess my question was more how would one even answer these questions?  Our application uses a web interface and I don't plan to give any money to Alan Cooper or his publisher to better understand the terms he created.  Using google I have somewhat of an idea of what he is talking about, but not entirely.  I should add that our sales people always fill these things out and we are simply asked to help.

Anonymous
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

What's the issue? If you don't understand it, ask them to elaborate.

Ron
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

"Pedagogic vector for all actions" : there's a self-explanatory such an menu item for each action.

"Pedagogic vector has teaching link to: direct manipulation, keyboard and buttcon shortcuts" :
the keyboard shorcut is explained in the menu item ("Save Ctrl S"), or the icon off the corresponding button is displayed in the menu item

"monocline grouping of pedagogic vector" : menus are no more than one level deep

"interface totally avoids dialog boxes with meta-questions" : don't ask "Do you really want to quit"

"vendor commits to removing excise tasks found by users" :
just say no to this one.

Cooper's vocabulary isn't the best part of his work. "About Face 2" is worth reading, though.

Loïc
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Most of those sample questions are trying to find out if the software has taken usability into account. (Is it "easy to use")

They want to know if a beginner can pick it up easily, (beginner mode?) as well as intermidiate users who sometimes need a "refresher".

Also, they seem to want to know if the software is open to "feature requests" or mods.

If you think your software is easy to use, follows standards, and may be open to valid feature requests, say "Yes !" to all the questions.  :)

(I admit, sending out a questionnaire like that seems dopey, but maybe they just want to get a discussion going but are not sure what to say so they are trying to formalize things with an initial document.)

Kentasy
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I can assure you that the purpose is not to get a discussion going.  It is simply part of their procedure.  The document is never discussed again.

While I'd like to think they are trying to find out how seriously we take usability, I don't believe that any of these people actually understand the terms themselves.

Anonymous
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Loïc,

Our application has a web interface and we don't use any kind of javascript/DHTML menus.  How literally is the term menu to be interpreted?

Anonymous
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Anonymous,

I said menu as an example, not to be literally interpreted. A pedagogic vector, for cooper, is a self explanatory device that helps begginers (or long time users for a rarely used function) in understanding how to use the application.
An hyperlink or a button with clear labels can be considered as pedagogic device.

Loïc
Thursday, March 18, 2004

Tell them you can't really answer those questions until they've filled out a form detailing the process they go through to ensure that their functional requiurements questionairres are both logically consistent and complete.

Adrian
Thursday, March 18, 2004

Anonymous, it sounds like the product is already created.  Can't you simply arrange to give them a demo somehow?

Matt
Thursday, March 18, 2004

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