We're all LUsers
Feb 12, 2010 12:25

The web was all, um, a-twitter yesterday about clueless users: An article on ReadWriteWeb about Facebook Logins got pushed up to the near top of the Google News results for "Facebook Login" - and got visits from a lot of people trying to get to Facebook. These people didn't use the browser's address bar, but instead just typed "Facebook Login" into Google and clicked on the first likely-looking link that came up. A number of these people did manage to figure out how to leave a comment, so the article has a whole lot of comments saying things like

  • "The new facebook sucks> NOW LET ME IN."
  • "I just want to log in to Facebook - what with the red color and all? LOLLLOLOL!!!!!111"
  • I am not happy!!!,I was starting to feel comfortable with it now I am all confuse How do I sign in?
  • Seams like all of the comets i read agree with me you people messed up royal i was enjoying facebook now i am thinking of getting rid of it all
Check out the comment stream yourself for more golden nuggets of poorly-spelled outrage - if you don't get enough of that already - but it's good to keep in mind that for every angry jerk there are many more confused people who just thought that Facebook (or the internet) was broken and didn't say anything.

Living like I do in a world of programmers and gadget fans, it's easy to forget that many people are pretty helpless when it comes to technology. In my experience, it's usually not that people are stupid, but that they don't have the extra mental energy to devote to figuring these things out. Instead, they're concentrating on other things: raising children, being a lawyer, holding down three jobs, writing a book, or whatever.

It turns out that typing what you want into the search box is a popular way to get around the web. If you think about it, a search box is much easier to deal with than that URL bar with all the cryptic slashes and little support for misspellings and errors.

Although they're getting simpler to use, computers are still 'black boxes' to most people, full of unexpected behaviours and cryptic messages. Like a victim in an abusive relationship, users never know when they'll do something to cause a disaster, so they stick to what they know and do the bare minimum.

Programmers should be more sympathetic to this, since we've all had to climb learning curves when learning a new language or technology - and all have had to pass through the Cargo Cult stage of learning.

I remember my first big Java project back in 2001: I had been working in Lotus Notes long enough to learn all of its many quirks, and had only done a bit more than "Hello World" in Java - and now I was on a team doing a full DB2-backed JSP/Struts application with a ridiculously tight schedule for a big new customer. This was on Windows98, and before Eclipse got popular - we were using VisualAge for Java, an old lousy version of WebSphere Studio, a clunky Java-based DB2 tool, and for version control a buggy demo version of Microsoft Visual SourceSafe). Just getting everything to run properly, let alone build and deploy any real code, took lots of fine-tuning of system configurations and PATH settings.

There was one knowledgeable Java expert on the team, but I was completely out of my depth. I let him do all of the delicate configuration and then just programmed in my own little world and then didn't touch anything else. Just ramping up to the new skills and building the actual application (and dealing with the lousy tools) took all of the mental energy I had. When something did go wrong, I would go into a helpless panic and whine at the expert that "everything's broken!" and plead with him to do his magic to fix it.

I realized that this was exactly the same kind of behaviour that I got from users I had worked with over the years. The helplessness was stressful, but I was most surprised by how embarrassed I felt - I like to think of myself as a capable person and this was evidence to the contrary. It was a great insight into the mental space of the regular people who used the software that I wrote. Most people don't like to think of themselves as stupid (especially the ones who are stupid), and will do what they can to avoid situations that make them feel that way.

We actually delivered on the project (after a lot of late nights), and I was eventually able to start doing Java projects on my own. I never forgot that feeling of helplessness, and how many other people out there feel that way when working with computers all the time.

Previous:
Thoughts on HAML
Feb 10, 2010 07:54
Next:
A Quick Note on Encryption
Mar 02, 2010 09:54
Other Blog Posts
This Is Nowhere: Bloomsday Halifax This Is Nowhere: Why an HTML/JavaScript Single-Page App With GPS Is A Bad Idea This Is Nowhere: GPS and Wayfinding and More UX This Is Nowhere: The Single-Button UX This Is Nowhere: Don’t Just Stand There! This Is Nowhere: Finding My Duck Finding Burgers Fast: My DIY Halifax Burger Week Site "This is Nowhere" at PodCamp Halifax 2018 The Diary Diaries: Fixing Remembary's Facebook Connection Special Leap Day Edition of "Some Weird Things About Time" What's Up With Remembary Can't get pg_dump To Work Now That Heroku Has Upgraded Postgresql to 9.4? The Best Thing I Ever Did To Promote My App If You Build It, They WON'T Come #deployaday, My Big Hairy Plan for 2015 Extracting Plain Text from an NSAttributedString My Year of "Hits" Part 2: Remembary Rolling My Year of "Hits" Part 1: Remembary Rises (and Stumbles) Handy Little Test Method to Check for Translations in Rails Apps My Suddenly Slow-Waking MacBook Air Indie App PR: Keeping Control of Your Tone A Quick Note on 'clone' in Rails 3.2 My eBook Apps 2: iOS, JavaScript, and Ruby My eBook Apps 1: Introduction Quick Tip: No Sound on Mountain Lion My Upcoming Talk at PodcampHFX 2012: My Year of "Hits" starshipsstarthere.ca: Building at the Speed of Funny Screencast Tips Remembary's Cool New Picture Support Indie App PR 2: Keeping On Top Of User Feedback Indie App PR 1: How to Handle an App Disaster Giles Bowkett Diary Project 2 Remembary Video Congratulations! Welcome to Your Nightmare! How My iPad App Remembary Took Off Why You Should Have an App in the App Store (Even If You Probably Won't Make Any Money) PodCampHFX Remembary Presentation - Part 3 How I Used MailChimp Autoresponders to Promote Remembary PodCampHFX Remembary Presentation Part 2 PodCampHFX Remembary Presentation Part 1 Why AdWords Ads Don't Work for iPad Apps Remembary is Sponsoring PodcampHFX Why Can't I Resize my Views in Interface Builder? Momento and Remembary Concerning Remembary iPad-Friendly eBooks of Gracian's Art of Worldly Wisdom Project Report: PTOS2 A Quick Note on Encryption We're all LUsers Thoughts on HAML Friday Afternoon Hack - Getting Beyond the Basics Halifax Friday Hack and Back to Basics Quote from Wil Shipley FutureRuby Make Web Not War Busy Week I: Toronto Ruby Job Fair Employment.nil - the Toronto Ruby Job Fair Code Count: Ruby on Rails vs. C#/ASP.NET A Brief Note on Twitter The Hub Halifax and Mobile Tech for Social Change Deep Thoughts on Microsoft From The Accordion Guy The Two Kinds of Defensive Programming Presentation - Fixing Careerious: From C#/.NET to Ruby on Rails Enterprise! Presenting at Ruby on Rails Project Night - May 7th New Name and New Look for Careerious/Clearfit FutureRuby and More From Unspace Health Tips for Programmers This tables meme won't die Careerious - Ruby and Rails vs. C#/.NET Yeah I Use Tables For Layout, So Sue Me The Different Kinds of Done Giles Bowkett's RubyFringe presentation OfficeTime: Great Time-Tracking App for OS X Back With A New Look Non-DRY Feed torontorb Keeping Your Sanity With The Command Design Pattern shindigital Is All Grown Up! (according to the spambots) Startup Stars? I'm so bored! The Magic Words for RMagick Jennifer from Operations You see? Naming is HARD Business Software as Process Documentation Deployment note: 'execve failed' Steve Jobs on Market Research Why Canada Is Better for Entrepreneurs "Program first and blog second" Toronto Tech Collage The MacBook Air Is A Roadster RubyFringe! Quote of the Week: Steve Yegge Starting Up: Cards Great design tool: browsershots.org Starting Up: The Logo Quotes Of The Day: Hedge Fund Interview TSOT Ruby / Rails Presentation Night - Part 1 Moneyworks: Accounting Software for Canadians on OS X Starting Up: The Name Nice logo, but why is your site so bland? Welcome to shindigital.com