In user experience design, we must automate the automatable for our users. Something may only take seconds for an individual user to do, which may seem like it’s a waste of time to automate. However, when something that can be automated isn’t automated, consider the wasted time as it multiplies across all of your users.

For example, if I want to pay my water bill with the City of Durham website, I have to put in two different numbers to identify myself–an account number and a customer ID. These numbers, though, are actually just the last 6 digits of my account number on my paper bill and the first 6 digits of my account number on my paper bill, respectively.

Screenshot of City of Durham utility billing website

As a users, splitting the numbers into two fields isn’t a challenge, but it’s annoying. It only takes seconds for me to split them up mentally, type one set into one field, and then type the other set into the other field. But why do I need to do that at all? Computers can split numbers in microseconds. I could be given a single input field to type the full number into and then the server can do the splitting. This would save me, a single user, seconds each time I want to pay my bill. Aggregated across all users, this would save hours per year, at least. 

So, when your programmer can spend a few extra minutes to save your entire user population hours per year, I think that’s worth the effort. Always automate the automatable for your users.