Do we (really) underestimate the average user?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Traverse, Feb 17, 2015.

  1. Traverse macrumors 603

    Traverse

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    #1
    If you communicate often with people on this forum it’s easy to forget how uneducated the general public can sometimes be with technology, but I’ve always thought that that was a smug attitude and that the general public is smarter than most “techy” people think but three things recently happened to me:

    1) Before one of my college classes started an acquaintance of mine sat down and got out her MacBook Air. She was running Yosemite and I said "How do you like OS X Yosemite?" She looked at me funny and I said "your operating system." She replied "oh, I like it fine. I just have everything set to auto update." I mentioned that the old version had the 3D dock and she was like "oh yeah."

    2) My aunt has an iPad 2 with auto updates turned off. She had iOS 6. A while ago I went to her house and picked it up and realized she was running iOS 7. I made a comment and she said "What's an iOS 7?" I asked if she'd noticed that everything looked different and she said she didn't notice the change.

    3) Another acquaintance of mine was browsing the web and got some kind of pop up. They were telling me that they were "browsing with Apple and Apple blocked the pop up." I asked them what they meant and they said they had an "Apple computer so they browse with Apple." Long story short, they were browsing with Google Chrome.


    I don't mention these in an arrogant way or to make fun of them, but I was surprised. I realize that people on this forum (me included) have an above average knowledge of computers, but I can't believe people don't even stay informed on the name of their OS. How do you go from iOS 6 to iOS 7 and not even notice it or even know "what an iOS" is? Sometimes it makes me sad that people have so little knowledge about the devices they use.

    Do you think these were typical cases of the "average user" or do you think these were on the extreme? I think it would be curious to see what an IT or tech maintenance person at a company has to deal with.
     
  2. BasicGreatGuy Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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    #2
    I think the people on forums like this are the exception. I think the majority of people just want to be able to turn on their device, and be able to do what they need to do. They aren't hung up on what the latest version is, much less the change log or the differences between different Mac flavors.
     
  3. Traverse thread starter macrumors 603

    Traverse

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    #3
    Oh, I forgot one.

    4) My roommate (who has had a Mac for 6 months) wanted me to send them a file. I decided to Air Drop it just to see how it would work. I yelled for them to open the Finder and they didn't know what the Finder was. I had to tell them the "smily face at the bottom left".

    That one actually did annoy me because they should know that after 6 months.
     
  4. xmichaelp macrumors 68000

    xmichaelp

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    #4
    You're right, it's mind boggling how clueless the average user is. All they need to do is take an hour to learn the basics of an OS but they never seem to.
     
  5. MacNut macrumors Core

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    #5
    I am kinda shocked in this day in age with our lives full of technology how many people are dumbfounded by it. Even younger people seem to be clueless.
     
  6. AlliFlowers Contributor

    AlliFlowers

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    #6
    Try doing software support. It doesn't matter if the person uses a Mac, iOS device, Windows, or Android. The majority of users are completely clueless when it comes to what they've got.
     
  7. Traverse thread starter macrumors 603

    Traverse

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    #7
    Actually, if you look at Reddit's Tech Support Gore subreddit it's really sad.
    ----


    Like I said, I didn't bring this up in a condescending way. I have limited exposure to general tech support so I didn't know if those instances I saw were representative of the general public or not.
     
  8. Scepticalscribe, Feb 17, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2015

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #8
    Exactly. To most people, a computer is not a design statement, or a means of demonstrating their membership of an ubercool technological club, but a means to do what they have to do in their work or life. They don't derive their sense of identity from it, it is a tool, not something that has revolutionised communication.

    As long as it works, they don't much care how it works; they would have the exact same relationship with their washing machine, or motor-car. And, if it breaks down, in their eyes, it is the job of a specialist to fix it.


    Actually, I would argue that only the sort of people who are fascinated by the whole world of computing and information technology - because it is cool and cutting edge, or who are interested in how and why things work and how and why things change, or - who find it a useful career to enter, because it is where 'things' are at now, are about the only people who will be interested in knowing about all of this.

    Two, or three, reasons suggest themselves for this lack of interest. It is not necessarily an easy area to master, unless you have developed a prior interest in the field. And, it is an area which has - fairly or not - developed a reputation for having a surfeit of condescending, supercilious young males who find it hard to lower themselves to the level of explaining in plain and straightforward language what this is all about.

    Another, even more obvious issue is that technology is rendered obsolete so rapidly that it is not always necessary to learn everything; sometimes the effort is too much, and other times, that effort turns out to be not really necessary as the technology in question has been superseded by other, better ones.
     
  9. Traverse thread starter macrumors 603

    Traverse

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    #9
    To a point I agree, but I still think that regular users of the technology should know what web browser they're using or know what the Finder is. They don't have to understand how it works to understand basic apps.
     
  10. BasicGreatGuy Contributor

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    #10
    In your mind, regular users should know. The problem isn't the regular users. The problem is your projected expectations on other people.

    As Scribe said, not everyone that buys a computer has the interest, time, or ability in learning all the latest techno-geek language, much less all the various commands and nuances of the OS. Like I said, people (as a whole) just want to be able to turn on the computer and be able to do what they want or need to do.

    Where do you think the "it just works" mindset comes from? That is Apple seeing its market base for what it is, and capitalizing on it, by creating products whereby people (as a whole) don't need to study all things Mac in order to use an Apple product.
     
  11. Traverse thread starter macrumors 603

    Traverse

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    #11
    Maybe I do expect too much, but I still think if you use a Mac computer and work with files you should know what the Finder icon is, but I suppose that's just me.
     
  12. BasicGreatGuy Contributor

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    #12
    When one continually attempts to place his or her own self-appointed expectations on others, (in areas such as this, or any area for that matter) it is a recipe for continued frustration.

    We all have different passions at various levels.

    If someone doesn't share the various geek and cerebral passions I have, that doesn't make said person stupid or lazy. It just means that there are areas where we do not share commonality.

    If we can strive to talk with people instead of talk down to them, because they don't know something as basic and simple as <insert here>, we will be much better communicators, in my opinion.

    There is a big difference between talking with someone and communicating with them.
     
  13. MICHAELSD macrumors 68040

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    #13
    Not one bit surprised. The general public knows very little about technology.
     
  14. Johnlpi macrumors member

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    #14
    I read somewhere that if you really wanted to annoy a techie, and they ask you "what make is your pc" or "what version of the OS are you running" - just tell them you're "running Microsoft" :p lol

    Anyway, yeah - people are clueless. I think it just stems from people not really wanting to know, or caring, how any of this stuff works. They think "ping" and "pong" has to do with table tennis and Unix is something that time forgot. (even though it's the underpinning of OS X).

    Sadly, nobody wants to read anymore and they want everything down for them - but yesterday.

    ::sigh::
     
  15. Mainsail macrumors 6502a

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    #15
    Firstly, Thanks to the OP for raising the question. I think it is rather interesting what we might assume people know or don't know about their computers.

    For my part, I have sort of become the family tech guy. I do not make my living in IT, but I have taken an interest and that was enough. I believe most people just want their devices to work and perform some pretty basic functions: email, messaging, web, directions, photos, productivity apps, etc.. However, most of the people on this forum are looking for a more robust experience. They want to test and push their devices a bit to see what they can do. This is one of the reasons so many posts on this forum recommend maxed-out configurations of hardware or will take the position that you can't possibly get by with just an "xyz" device. It is natural to assume that our personal needs somehow mirror everybody's needs.

    Another mistake people make is assuming that the level of tech sophistication is somehow a measure of the value or importance of the work people do. This is of course absurd. I work with many high level managers and executives that have a very simple and pragmatic understanding of technology.

    One last point, some of this technology gap is generational. Both my father and father-in-law were very successful in their careers prior to retiring. Both have engineering degrees (in one case MS in Nuclear Engineering) and managed large organizations (in one case over 1,000 people). But, they retired in the 80's so never really used computers much at work. I notice that they have a much more difficult time grasping some of the fundamentals of technology. On the other hand, all three of my kids went through our middle school's laptop program, so technology is more second nature to them.
     
  16. Billit macrumors member

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    #16
    Sadly, it's the modern day equivalent of the average person who didn't know how to program the clock on their VCR 40 years ago so it was always flashing 12:00.
     
  17. Jessica Lares macrumors G3

    Jessica Lares

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    #17
    My mom has an iPhone 4 and she refused to let me update it to iOS 6 because she was convinced it would break it, so she's stuck on iOS 5 still.

    The problem with my dad is that technology is moving too fast for him. He had to learn how to use DOS, and then Windows 3.1, then Windows NT. He still has a hard time not making the Start Menu NOT close on him, and he doesn't understand that you don't use Notepad as an alternative for Word at home. He didn't like both the Windows Mobile and Blackberry smartphones they gave him pre-iPhone because it was just more stuff that was hard for him to use. He has an iPhone 4 now, uses it heavily to take photos and videos, but he still doesn't understand how to use the App Store, get his phone off silent, and other little things.

    The manual for 3.1 is still somewhere in this house. I used to thumb through it back in the day, but I could barely read it. It's very unfortunate that they don't include these things with the majority software anymore and that a lot of third-party guys are having to fill the space with books that can go up to $100. I really appreciate the developers who write nicely formatted ePub/PDF documentation.

    [​IMG]

    I don't think it's right that people have these fancy smartphones and tablets in their hands but have no clue how to do most things with them.

    But I agree that this is something you shouldn't let yourself get frustrated over. When someone asks you a question, it is because they're comfortable with hearing whatever you're going to say. You don't want to be like the teacher who has a really bad day, gets really angry over a little question, and then responds with, "just read the book." Because just like there are times where you don't understand what a textbook is telling you, there are always going to be obstacles that prevent someone from finding the answer to their tech question. Sometimes you know what you're trying to figure out, but you don't know what to write in a search engine to get to the answer.

    You also have to remember that when people look at a computer, they see a bar at the bottom with icons. You learn that the compass gets you to the internet, the desk calendar brings up a calendar, the stamp brings up email, the clipboard copies something, and the folder lets you open something. We might all know these things by what they're actually called, but many people associate them with what they actually do. And this is why we now have gestures and are moving away from the mouse, because it's easier to do basic computer input with your fingers instead of learning keyboard commands and dragging a piece of hardware around a pad.
     
  18. Traverse thread starter macrumors 603

    Traverse

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    #18
    That was a very thoughtful and well written response. Thank you.

    I do think it's sad that more and more developers are not offering good user guides even in digital format; that's how I learned Scrivener ;).

    Also, I didn't mean to make it sound like I was frustrated. I'm not rude to anyone who asked for my tech help, I was just surprised at the lack of knowledge on the part of the user. And although I agree in part with BasicGreatGuy I still don't think you have to be interested in something to understand the basics. I have no interest in cars, but I still know the basics on how to operate and maintain them. And I am patient with the older generation (my mother and my aunt), but when you have college students who still know how to properly work a computer's most basic systems it is troubling since odds are they will have to use those computers in their career in some capacity.

    Also, the only thing that does frustrate me is when people refuse to learn. I don't mean like your mother not wanting to update her OS, I actually think it's kind of cute in a way (my mother's the same way). But I got annoyed with her when she wanted to know how to print and I showed her the File -> Print command over and over and she couldn't get it because she didn't want to learn. And I want to clarify: I don't mean teaching them advanced features, but I had a family member who refused to shut down their computer, they just unplugged it. I told them over and over not to do that and then they cried when their computer died. That annoyed me.

    ----------

    Wow, you mentioned something exactly mirroring what happened to me! I'm planning on becoming a professor after I get my PhD and I will NOT be that professor because I hate those kind.

    In my strategic management class we are using online simulation software. The professor dumped the user manual and all these tutorials in our lap and told us to learn it. Well, the user guide told us WHAT to do to make something happen, but not HOW to do it. I asked him to explain what we were supposed to do so I didn't mess up the system and he replied "read the manual" in a pompous attitude. That helps no one and really angered me.

    ----------

    While responding to Jessica Lares I was able to put in words the point I was trying to make to you.

    You don't have to have an interest in something to understand/learn the basics for use and maintenance. I have no interest in cars at all, but I learned the basics of operation and maintenance.

    I had a family member who wouldn't shut down their computer, they just unplugged it ever time. I told them over and over not to do that and showed them how to shut it down properly, but they refused to listen and learn how to do basic things and then cried when the system failed.

    That is simply irresponsible. If you're going to use a device, know the very basics regardless of your interests.
     
  19. Xiroteus, Feb 18, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2015

    Xiroteus macrumors 65816

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    #19


    People not wanting to learn how to properly use a device they have had some type of for fifteen years will annoy me. Someone still did not know what the desktop was. You use this thing for hours a day for fifteen years and you still don't know the basics? Ugh!

    The shutting down issue would just piss me off from sheer stupidity. It is not hard to turn off a computer. I do not know a ton about cars yet the basics and I can fix things.

    Some people are horrible with tech, there computers are a mess, they never back up, run scans, toss everything in downloads and never organize or rename files.

    I just do not understand people not wanting to know everything they need so they never have to ask for help.

    Then there are people that could do their own tasks yet are completely helpless as they never learned how to do much of anything.
     
  20. roadbloc macrumors G3

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    #20
    I do not believe there is such thing as the 'average user'. Everybody is different with different needs for their technology and all with different levels of knowledge and experiences to boot.
     
  21. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    #21
    Everyone's different as roadbloc put it. I find in supporting windows and macs at work. I see a lot of people who have a varying level of computer knowledge. I think average user to painting people with too broad of a generalization.
     
  22. Scepticalscribe Contributor

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    #22
    I'm laughing reading that, as to some extent, I was that person. I never learned how to properly programme a VCR because 1) I didn't need to, and 2) it wasn't important enough to me, and 3) the sibling and parental resource wars over access to the VCR weren't really worth fighting over; I preferred to save my powder for bigger battles. In any case, I have never owned a TV and I rarely watch TV; if I wanted something recorded (which was pretty rare) I would ask my brother to do the needful.

    Now, the VCR itself has been rendered obsolete, and the world that went with it, likewise.


    Excellent and thoughtful post which makes an awful lot of very good points, points well worth heeding.

    Again, another excellent post.

    As has already been pointed out, by BasicGreatGuy, the old Mac slogan 'it just works' was successful precisely because it understood its target audience; they wanted something 'that just works' - they didn't want to have to spend time trying to work out how to make it work.

    And, re problems shutting down Windows computers, I have to confess when my former job switched the office computers to Windows 8 in 2013, I could not get the hang of it at all, not least in closing the damned thing down, and insisted on being able to re-route everything - including my work emails - to my MBA. While I found Windows 7 okay, I will readily concede that I loathed Windows 8.

    Seriously, if a number of people find a particular process difficult, amend the process - rather than berating the people.

    And, here, as someone who worked at the academic coalface for years, teaching and mentoring students, I will say that there is a perception that many of those in the tech world, while doubtless very gifted intellectually, are impatient with those who 1) don't 'get' this stuff, and 2) barely mask their contempt for those who are not adepts.

    This is not an attitude which will encourage those who don't 'get', know, or understand this world to want to do so.

    Not everyone shares the same enthusiasms, and one cannot expect the same degree of intellectual curiosity from others for the topics that excite you.

     
  23. LizKat macrumors 68040

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    #23
    Correct. Even back in the 1970s this was true. I remember answering a couple questions on a tech interview back then with "I don't know the answer to that but I know where to look in the manual to find it." I got the job, which was for systems analyst and programmer. The question was something about what was the command to rewind and dismount a tape for God's sake. Most people coding today have forgotten more languages than are still "spoken" in the world of software development.


    Many of them are too overwhelmed by even relevant jargon to sort out the level of detail they need to get a grip on. You’re not necessarily going to know the difference between “modem” and “router” and “browser” and “finder”. And you don’t know what you need to know and what you don’t. TCP/IP, ISP, OS... duh... and is “server” sort of like “provider”??? See, you can’t even sort out references to hardware vs software vs corporate lingo. And the tech support person (or unfortunate relative) who realizes this is going to piss you off by asking you if your computer is plugged in. The correct answer might be “yes but the switched outlet it’s plugged into is turned off.” So the relationship between user and tech is already fraught before it even gets started. Quick-start guides try to help, but really, the graduation of a human being in the 21st century from plugging in a toaster to plugging in a desktop computer can be pretty daunting. Apple can say “It just works” but it can take three hours or three seconds just to realize that a computer has arrived with one or more functions DOA. Toaster, not so much. Take it from there, and here we are.

    Exactly. And if one assumes the children and now grandchildren of those people have all learned much about the essentials of using and maintaining a personal computer -- even if they learned how to use a computer on the job or in school -- one is likely mistaken. All my contemporary relatives and their nextgens have used computers at work and the nextgens at school. Two of us have actually ever worked in IT. The rest are clueless enough to qualify for “is it plugged in” questions at tech support time. It’s a large clan. We’re talking several dozen people. They’ve all gone or will have gone to college. They don’t care that they don’t know what’s behind the screen on their gear. They just want it to work. They’re collectively an advertisement for cloud computing. Push button to restore software, take hardware to tech guy if that doesn’t fix the problem. Maybe the rest of us just need to chill out (except the thing is, some of us, and probably increasingly the elders among us, get alarmed at how little tinkering we get to do with newer setups short of jailbreaking them). The world of “it just works” will bring real computers to their knees, and finally to the toaster stage. It’s what most of us want. The rest of us... well... “evolve or die” still works. We’re going backwards, but hey.


    The only part of your post that I question is the “I just do not understand people not wanting to know everything they need so they never have to ask for help.” Everyone needs to ask for help sometimes. Short of that, I agree that since our computers are not toasters yet, it makes sense to learn the essentials. More people should take advantage of Apple's one-on-one options. More relatives (like me!) should insist on that and so divorce themselves from the turmoil of teaching family how to use gear. I’d never teach a family member how to drive a car. Shame on me for trying to teach them how to use a laptop.

    You are so right. It’s the hardest problem our tech wizards have to help us solve going forward. But solve it they must or else we really will all end up with toasters, which outcome I would regard as a planetary catastrophe.
     
  24. CrickettGrrrl, Feb 18, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2015

    CrickettGrrrl macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    I don't know that it is a refusal to learn something new, it may be more of a short-term memory difficulty. I try to help my easily frustrated mother with her iMac, she always confuses Mail & Safari. Sometimes she also has difficulty remembering how to print things. I've shown her the shortcut for printing: Command P, which she loves, because I emphasized the "You're my computer and I COMMAND you to print, or copy, or paste..." She's a little bossy and this has great appeal.

    I also try to help several older friends (late 70's) with their Macs, they're wonderful and very interested, but a few months go by & if they haven't used whatever I've shown them frequently, they forget and need helpful nudges again. I do wince a lot with one person because she'll write over hardware components with a thick magic marker to help her remember. It's bad enough to see 1-1/2" lettering in black or purple or green on external hard drives, but nice clean Apple stuff? Ugh!

    Something else... Not long ago my mom dug out an old Bell & Howell film projector and a ton of film spools out of the basement. She had absolutely NO problem threading the film through that sucker, and everything else she needed to do in order to splice various bits of film together. Don't ask me to do that, or thread her inscrutable old sewing machine.
     
  25. Traverse thread starter macrumors 603

    Traverse

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    #25
    That made me smile. I've never seen one of those old film projectors in person. :)
     

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