Technology has become more complex, of that there is no argument. Even technology that prides itself on simplicity, in order to remain competitive and more fully featured, has become more complex (I’m looking at you, iPhone). There are no instruction manuals that come with computers anymore. Even power-users who have worked on their computers for decades still discover little short-cuts and features they never heard of.
As technology becomes more widespread, it reaches those who are increasingly less tech-savvy than the “early pioneers” who were the first to use it. Grandparents use smartphones. Third-world nations are getting laptops. On the surface, this is a great thing; we’re bridging the ‘digital divide.’ But the feat is ultimately useless if neither of those groups even knows how to use the new tech that’s now in their hands.
You Know How To Drive A Car, Right?
This doesn’t just apply to just software, computers, or smartphones. This also applies to universal remotes, DVRs, stereos, customer service menus, and even new cars. My Kia Sportage has five manuals, each of them several inches thick.
And yet despite that the same basic controls are the same on my vehicle as any other: the knobs for the headlights, wipers, horn, and gearshift. Those are just a given, and even if someone else doesn’t know every bell & whistle in my car at least they can operate it at a basic level. They can turn on the car and be able to drive away, even if they can’t do much else.
And that’s a form of user interface, albeit one established through years of standardization and tradition. I’m talking about approaching an entirely new piece of technology, and through some relatively quick trial-and-error be able to figure out how to use it without breaking it. more to know stotion
People who are “afraid of new technology” are only hesitant because the controls appear overwhelming, and they’re not wrong. The controls have gotten overwhelming on just about everything. The experience of using that piece of technology becomes confusing, then intimidating, then insulting. It has become traumatic, and now spurned them from approaching other technology of that caliber. And as any advertiser will tell you, that means failure.
A Good Experience Leads To More
A good user experience (UX) is one in which a new user can quickly figure out the basics and then fairly quickly deduce the intermediate capabilities of a device or interface.
They should feel good when using the technology so they will be persuaded to continue onwards to mastering it. Or really, just continue to use it, period. A good UX usually comes from a well-planned user interface (UI) which is how a user interacts with a given device or interface. How easy is it to control and use? How easy is it to figure out? Is the device overwhelming with options, or frustratingly too simple with not enough options?
Good UI should be a story, with pacing, reveals, and development, that guide a new user through its nuances and depths. Users must be led, but not forced. They should be free to experiment, but not abandoned either. All this leads to a good UX.
Now, this isn’t an easy task. Far from it. Psychologists have been applying their knowledge to the field, as have even some philosophers. Because technology has become so complex and able to do so much more, the challenge is trying to present all that capability — all that information — in an easily digestable manner. Of course it shouldn’t hinder our perception of additional desired info, either.
Nevertheless, now more than ever we live in an age of technology. It accelerates and develops at ever increasing rates, and unless we really dedicate ourselves to well-designed UI and UX all that tech will be for naught, because fewer and fewer individuals will want to use it. Will even be able to use it.
Bringing Both Sides Together
Bridging the digital divide is not about making the technical-savvy ‘elite’ loftier, it is about making devices and interfaces that satisfy both the savvy and un-savvy. To increase the prowess of both sides alike. Anything less will be too simplistic for some, too advanced for others, and leave everyone unsatisfied.
The right middle ground is something easy to learn, but with some difficulty to master. I’m in no way against learning curves; it promotes critical thinking and trial-and-error. But I am against nearly insurmountable learning curves, because that dissuades the attempt to try. The only separation between a novice and an expert should be what the latter can do with a tool, not which tools either one should use.