Hi all

I can't agree that it's generational: a couple of years ago I was involve in
user testing for a site aimed at young people - 18 to 25 years old; daily
internet users.  A number weren't aware of the convention that a corporate
logo in the top left corner of the screen is almost always a home page link;
one who complained of the size of the text wasn't aware of the fact that she
could re-size it (of course it doesn't help that so many sites make this
more difficult than necessary).

For most tasks, most people look for a solution that one of my management
texts called 'satisficing': rather than keep looking for the best solution,
they stop when they get to one that is good enough.  When I was in IT
training, I would often lean over someone's shoulder and say 'why don't you
do it this way?' - some people would then change their practices but many
wouldn't - it was easier to keep doing whatever it was the way they were
used to.

The challenge for us as designers/builders is to build sites for the way
people really use the internet, not the way we wish they did!  At the same
time I'd like to think we take every opportunity to educate them - to let
them know that there are easier/better/more efficient ways of doing things.

Elizabeth Spiegel
Web editing
0409 986 158
GPO Box 729, Hobart TAS 7001

-----Original Message-----
Behalf Of Rick Lecoat
Sent: Friday, 16 May 2008 8:27 PM
To: wsg@webstandardsgroup.org
Subject: Re: [WSG] [OT] users - IT literate?

On 16 May 2008, at 06:50, Matthew Pennell wrote:

> In my experience, a large proportion of computer/web users struggle  
> to understand online concepts that we expert users take for granted.  
> Many regular surfers have no idea how to interact with a scroll bar  
> - and there are lots of people who don't know how the address bar of  
> their browser works!

Matthew, my experience tallies with yours. At least half of the people  
I work with (I mean clients, not co-workers) are not very IT-savvy at  
all. It brings to mind the Blackadder line: "I am one of these people  
who are quite happy
to wear cotton, but have no idea how it works."

In some extreme cases this seems to extend to an almost willful  
ignorance, as if they feel that learning how to operate their computer  
would somehow diminish them. It is certainly true that the older the  
client the more likely this seems to be -- although I would certainly  
not generalise too much as I know plenty of completely computer- 
literate 'silver surfers'. I find it frustrating when they stubbornly  
refuse to learn what the most basic controls are on their browser, but  
unless it has a negative impact on the project I generally ignore it.

In any case the evidence would suggest that it is a generational  
thing, and that should come as no surprise. As someone born at the  
back end of the 60s, I can understand it, because I personally find  
the more leading edge web technologies hard to keep up with - much  
more so than, say, people 15 years my junior who live and breathe that  

It's a matter of degree, I guess. People absorb information at a  
fundamental level early in their lives, and I think that beyond a  
certain age they stop absorbing it quite so easily and have to work at  
*learning* it. That includes information about current technology. If  
a new technology comes out when you're in your 40s it's probably going  
to be harder for you to pick it up than for your 16 year old nephew.

The old chestnut about adults having to get their kids to programme  
the VCR for them are clichés, sure, but based on a lot of truth.

Rick Lecoat

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