The Least Savvy User Ever

Posted By Debbie on August 4, 2014

In UX, we often look at a user segment we describe as not that web savvy. We might write that into a persona or two. Well, this weekend, I got to spend some time with the least savvy user ever.

This weekend, I gave a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 with Sprint data and a Bluetooth keyboard to my “replacement Mom,” Linda. She’ll be 70 this month. She’s never used email… never sent or received an email. Never searched the web. Doesn’t have a Smartphone and didn’t really understand why her workers were on them every spare second they got. Linda’s work computer is Windows Vista and runs one piece of software, which the company last updated in 2005… so you can imagine the UI on that. No internet at her shop or home.

One of the most interesting things about introducing Linda to her new tablet and some of the apps like Hangouts and Gmail was her idea of what icons mean. She has NO frame of reference. So what did she think the smiley face next to the input area in Hangouts was? “Something that will make me smile!” Linda is so new to these devices that she wouldn’t have known that people drop smiley faces into conversations.

I was showing her how the paper airplane icon for “send” is the same in Hangouts as it is in Gmail, so she will start to remember it. “Yes,” she said, “But I like it better here [in Gmail] because it says SEND next to it!”

She was getting very good at and proud of hitting the power button and swiping the lock screen. That was exciting!

She learned to take a picture. She couldn’t believe she’d be able to take pictures and videos. Within a few minutes, a person who had never seen an Android tablet took a picture of me and sent it to me through Google Hangouts. With no complaints or frustration.

I made her a gmail address. We called one of her sons and got his gmail address. She thought Gmail sounded very interesting and important. I said it’s Google Mail so they call it Gmail. And they made it free so lots of people have it.

When I told her son she now had email, he was excited to send her pictures. I said start sending! She has email!

I showed her how to press the microphone button and ask Google a question with your voice. I asked Google the weather in Seattle. The straight “I can’t believe this” face was awesome. When I showed her Maps, she said, “Now this isn’t going to talk to me, is it?” I said yes it is. Once you decide where you’re going, it will give you directions. I had it start directing us to the bakery down the street.

I took her to Chrome and told her she can go to websites here. Any website on the internet. She doesn’t have to call her friend Carol anymore and ask her to look something up on the internet for her.

I was showing her the long press on the power button to turn it completely off or put it in airplane mode. We talked about airplane mode because she’s flying today. We talked about powering it completely down, which I didn’t think she’d ever need to do. But that those were her main choices when you long press the power button, as the screen menu was showing her.

She said, “You know, I bet if I just pay attention to what’s on the screen, I will be able to use this.” I thought that was a pretty good approach. If only all of our users paid attention to what’s on the screen. 🙂

Mostly, I hope she will Hangout and Gmail with friends and family so she won’t feel so alone. I said that a lot of people think people on their smartphones are anti-social, but they are probably being social, just with people on the internet.

Linda said she never would have wanted a tablet but now that she had one, she was surprised how excited she was to have it and learn it. Thanks to my FB friends who suggested that I make sure to get her a little keyboard so that would feel familiar.