Monday, April 18, 2005

Grandmas don't use computers

You often are told that computers should be easy enough for grandma to use, so that if grandma wanted to make a rational database to manage her recipes, she could without reading a tutorial. The assumption that software should be made for grandma is fundamentally flawed. Why? Because every time someone talks about it, someone knows a friend who knows a friend, who's grandma writes her blog in vi. Because of these two extreme being pounded into my head when I think of grandmothers two images come to mind, the first is in a nursing home the second is some sort of super hacker. Which one of them do you think is true? Even if they were both true you don't want to target either one of them.

So who should software developers target for their easy of use testing? Who can't wont put up with software that is hard to use? Middle aged men that have kids or commonly referred to as "dads". They are young enough to know about the latest technology, old enough to have money to buy them, but don't have time for applications that don't just work.

Because there are kids in the house dads have very little time. They don't have time to try out every single option in a program or tweak their system like a twenty two year old collage student can. They just want things to work on the first try. Ok so maybe the output isn't optimal or the applications is a little slow, but the fact that it works on the first try and with very little learning curve will guarantee the dads allegiance to the software. Several of Apple's iLife applications have this down pat. The applications provide a limited functionality, but more then enough for someone who just wants to slap the data in and get something nice, quickly. One key thing which I will cover in a second is how many grandmas would use garage band v.s. how many middle age dads would die to be in a band and were drooling over garage band when it first came out? So maybe you can't choose the exact second the movie file is cut and you only have four ways it can be cut, but you don't have the time to anyway and that would just be anther confusing option. Software that is easy to use to get things done even if they don't have every feature will get the sales. Because of the kids dads will not put up with software that is hard to use just like grandmas, but dads have several other advantages over grandmas.

The important difference between grandmas and dads are that dads will purchase a whole lot more software then grandmas ever will. Dads typically are pretty versed in computers. They have probably owned a few themselves and work with them at their job. They enjoy using, tweaking, and like women, shopping for computers. Dads will frequently buy a game only to discover that they only ever played it twice. What do dads like more then games? Gadgets! And every gadget can connect to the computer these days, each one requiring some software to communicate and then plenty of software to manipulate the files, be it video, photo, or pinball machine roms.

The idea that all software should be targeted to grandma is deceiving. Grandmas do need things to be easy, but will probably only use their computer for e-mail, e-bay and perhaps some photo editing. But grandma wont buy your new wizbang application. Dads on the other hand also require that software be easy to use, but dads are much more likely to buy your software, the software sitting next to yours and oh and that scanner over that that is on sale too.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Hello Benjamin, I think you might well be surprised at what Grandmas do today, We build computers, we repair computers, we also know how to use them well enough to break computers. Software, what do you want to know about software? Do we buy software, would you like to see my collection? As far as computer games, well, lets see we managed to go with three games at christmas, Lets try Prisoners lockdown, Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, and War Craft for Christmas.. Yes, my grandkids were pretty happy. Be careful picking on the Grandma's, not all Grandma's are alike. Oh, by the way this Grandma upgraded the computer this last week with Vista..........

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