We bought a new toaster. It was necessary after.. the incident. But never mind that. The interesting thing about this toaster is that it beeps when the toast is about to pop up. “Lookout! Toast!” I’m not sure why this is necessary, because the mechanical sound of the springs is at least as loud as the beep.

This brought me to thinking about the “Beep” script step in FileMaker Pro. I can probably count on one had the number of times I have used this step. Ever. Why is an audible cue necessary? The user is, presumably, staring at the screen already. My thinking is thus: A beep is usually employed in conjunction with an alert message of some kind ? something has gone wrong, or something requires your attention. Most often, that alert comes in the form of a modal dialog box which cannot be dismissed. It locks the user from doing anything else until the dialog is formally dismissed by clicking a button. It’s not like they are going to miss the alert and continue to work.

Of course, whenever I reach this point, I start second-guessing myself. What if the user is blind? What if the user is a fast multi-tasker and swaps in another app to hide my dialog before it can appear? What if they are running a long process and have stepped away from the machine? All valid use-cases for the beep. Me, I hate being beeped at most of the time. Not only that, but becoming a parent 11+ years ago may have reinforced this attitude ? when your toddler is sleeping in the next room, the last thing you want is a loud “BEEP!” coming over your awesome computer speakers, upon which you were listening to your favorite metal band at full volume earlier in the day (and don’t get me started on ads that just start laying down the beats when you load a web page). But now that my daughter is a pre-teen, it pretty much take an air horn to wake her, so that argument has fallen by the wayside.

I’ll just wrap this up with a message for my clients, present and future: “Lookout! Toast!”