I am a proud designer of over 20 years and am still just as passionate about it now, as I was when I was a child. This has made me very entitled of course and I am amazed at how many people still don't realize that a company logo on a homepage will take you directly to the homepage..."But will people know to do this?" customers ask. Of course they will, how do you NOT know this already? Or how about that there are other browsers than IE8. Or how about that you don't have to type in www. in the Google search box if you already know the website address.
Breathe...I am then humbled when I realize - these people have jobs, lives and interests outside of the digital world I am so ingrained in...shame on me for forgetting this.
From phones to laptops, tablets to desktops, people use technology for work and recreation. However, while some people adapt to this changing technology, others seem to struggle. We all know these people. They could be your mother, who manages to crash her PC every time she turns it on. They could be your brother, who still hits “reply all” to every email chain he receives. These are the same people who cannot figure out how to get their apps to load on their tablet or who are still using an operating system from 2000.
Most of the time, they seem like a punchline. The lowest common denominator, easy to write off as inept and incapable. However, for designers, this sort of thinking is problematic. After all, we can’t control users, only (and barely) the programs and systems we create for them. The failure, therefore, always comes back to the source.
Designers (and often programmers) have a false sense of the world around them. When surrounded by other people who know exactly what you are trying to say, it is easy to assume that everyone outside the office should understand it, too. Designers and programmers often surround themselves with other designers and programmers - so they often fail to recognize how advanced our skills and knowledge actually are in comparison to users.
Designers are often too close to the source. This is the reason why movies are released when there are still obvious plot holes, or why newspapers can get published with blatant typos. When you spend all your time devoted to something, you actually can no longer see the flaws. This makes it easy to overlook problems that may seem obvious to everyone else.
We fail to realize that most people cannot (or choose not to) keep up with the pace of technology, to. It is not a question of intellect or ability; it is merely a question of focus. The common user has a job and family. They have hobbies and interests, which may not include the latest technology. All they want are devices that work for their lifestyle. The hard part is to remember that there is nothing wrong with that. These are infact, normal users.
Ultimately, the problem is not the mother who can't turn on her computer. It is not the brother who fails to use a web browser correctly. The problem comes back to those who fail to consider the reality of common users. The challenge, therefore, is not to create a program or system that impresses your boss, other experts or your peers. The challenge is to create something that can be understood seamlessly by the masses. This not only requires skill but outside perspective as well.
So be humble. Try to step outside of your box, outside of your realm, and try to think like the end user would. Stop creating to appease your peers, your boss, or your ego and start thinking how to use, how to simplify and ultimately how to be what you’re not.