Today, thanks mostly to cool libraries like Jquery, websites can do a lot without ever having to refresh the entire page. Websites have really grown into full blown applications.
Take Facebook or Twitter for example. Both sites have tons of functionality all working at the same time (asynchronously). The page never refreshes and for the most part it works beautifully. Tweets get retweeted, comments get posted and friendships are made.
Unfortunately no application is perfect
But as great as both applications are, neither one is perfect. I have clicked the follow button in Twitter several times and nothing happened. Eventually, after wasting a minute or two I ended up hitting fresh and tried again. I think it’s worked every single time after a refresh.
How much time do you waste trying to use something that just doesn’t work? As a computer consultant I found that scenario to be very common among my clients. They would use a system that was only 50% of what they really needed. Instead of throwing it away and trying again (mostly because they had already paid someone else a bunch of money for it) they would painfully continue to use the old system.
Find a fresh alternative
The first thing I would do in these cases was think of an extreme alternative. That usually lead to questions for the client which lead to more ideas for a solution. My main goal was to simplify the job of the client. My job wasn’t to fix what was broken with the old system. My job was to find an alternative that worked.
For example, one client was creating forms from a database. The text never changed and it was extremely complicated for them to use the system. They used less than 30% of the system. My suggestion was to simply use a PDF template and fill in the blanks instead. They went from managing a database and application to 7 simple files that could be stored on a thumb drive if they wanted. No bells or whistles but guess what? They didn’t need them!
Just hit refresh
The next time you feel stuck… hit the refresh button. Think of something extremely different as a solution. Think of something extremely simple. Make a list of what you’re trying to accomplish. Ask yourself, ‘What is the one thing I really need on this list?” Then, do it.