It’s hard when you use certain tech every day to see it through the eyes of someone who doesn’t.
Marco Arment, the creator of the beloved Instapaper and blogger at Marco.org wrote an article recently about the trial he went through trying to get his grandparents set up with iCloud.
The other day, my grandfather asked me if he could get rid of the who-knows-what PC for good, but he wanted to make sure that he could transfer his stuff to a new iPad in the future if this one ever broke. (Good question.) I told him to bring it to the nearby Apple Store and have them set up “ICLOUD BACKUP” for him. (He wrote that down.)I figured that a “Genius” would quickly figure out whether it still had iOS 4, and if so, would just update it to iOS 5 or 6 and then set up iCloud backup.But instead of doing what I assumed would be a non-destructive update, the Genius did a restore. And, apparently, didn’t explain what that was going to mean.
The pain of seeing such a large amount of tech software and products designed without the average user in mind crushes me at times. My father for example, has a $3000 monstrosity of a computer in his living room, and it was only purchased to park some movies on and watch through his 62” 3D Samsung Internet enabled TV. The thing is, Dad wouldn’t know where or how to buy (or obtain in any other fashion) movies for his computer, the TV remained unconnected to the net because the menu to set it up is more daunting than flying a plane, and the 1000 or so movies that the “tech people” who set his computer up gave him are all all dodgy low quality pieces of junk that look terrible on such a large screen, or they’re cam rips (filmed in a cinema with a smuggled in camera).
Sure, the set up he has in his lounge (and his 20Mbps internet connection) is every nerd’s dream, but Dad has enough money to pay for a movie if he wants to watch it, and just needs something simple that works.
I bought him an Apple TV and set it up. $100 vs $3000 and a lot less cables.
I hear the tech world bemoan the “boring” iOS that is on the world’s iPhones and iPads, but the people that are bored are missing what Apple are trying to do. They are trying to bring the technology to the masses. It NEEDS to be as simple as functionally possible. It NEEDS to have as few features as necessary, it NEEDS to be as obvious and easy to use as possible.
Dad got the new iPhone 5 the day of its launch. In the week he has had it, he has done a whole bunch of stuff with Siri, played with a lot of things he would normally never do, sent picture messages and more. One of the biggest things he likes about it is Facebook. He said “I can see why the kids use Facebook now. It’s so much better on the phone than on the computer”. He looks at Facebook on his PC and is too overwhelmed with the amount of information thrown at him at once, that he clicks a couple of things, then kills it. A simpler interface on the web may have gotten him hooked a long time ago.
The fact that he can’t break iOS, can’t download viruses or malware, the fact that it backs up by itself while he sleeps, the fact that the icons are all the same size in nice little rows… just gives him peace. And makes him feel like he IS becoming technologically literate.
And the iPad wasn’t the first personal computer, nor will it be the last, that we all proclaimed to be finally easy enough for everyone to use. Sure, it’s easy to use when everything’s working and time stands still, but that’s about as useful as when a developer says, “It worked on my machine.”We, all of us in technology, can do better than this. And we have a long way to go.
I used to look at my daughters in bewilderment at how little they cared about using computers or tinkering with them, but I have come to realise that there will always be a large percentage of the population that care very little about learning code, or even learning where the settings menu is. If you want these people to use your product, design with these people in mind.
A car manufacturer doesn’t build a car for the mechanics.