Usability Not Usable? Part 1

Conventional wisdom states that websites and other new products should be evaluated with non-tech savvy participants. With 63% of American adults accessing the Internet regularly, 83% of teens, and 20% of adults actively avoiding the online world we are a nation of tech-savvy or tech-avoidant. Conventional recruiting strategies not longer apply.

Rather than pursue an audience that is actively avoiding technology, we recommend iteratively evaluating new products with the expert customers – the professional amateurs. Professional Amateurs have done the competitve research, they know what works for them, and best of all – they’re passionate and articulate.

Benchmarking and evaluting with a novice customer-base provide a rear-view mirror description of where your competitors were. The key to surpassing the competition in the technically sophisticated landscape described above is listening to the needs of your professional amateurs – those customers engaging with your products on a daily basis. By paying close attention to their needs, opportunities will be obvious. As an added benefit, it will only strengthen your relationship with them.

One Reply to “Usability Not Usable? Part 1”

  1. Hm, gotta disagree with the method of argument (not the argument itself) a smidge. Although I appreciate your forward-thinking and innovative practices, I don’t see the tech world as black and white as “tech-savvy” or “tech-avoidant”. In fact, I see it as the contrary in that there are a lot of people in-between who don’t spend day after day on a computer unaware of workarounds and troubleshoots, and tips and tricks to make an online experience more robust.

    For example: I teach Internet classes to Latinos living in my state, who are simultaneously learning English at the agency where I work. They are neither tech-savvy nor tech-avoidant. Forty people show up every week to continue to practice click and drag, copy and paste, and other functions many office professionals mastered a lifetime ago. Unfortunately, one person teaching the course doesn’t make it a terribly productive class — although it hasn’t made them stop coming and practicing. (In fact, no one gets out of their seat for the 10 minute breaks throughout the class.)

    I pose a question for the audience:

    For those who don’t have an office job and can’t afford a home computer, how do people learn how to use a computer? I have done Internet tutoring for the public library — because the resources there are so scarce in addition to a 1-hour per day time limit (in addition to a login which has taken me 30 minutes to coach people through), I have deemed the library not as a place for computer literacy.

    The only people I’ve seen that have some computer skills (without the job or personal computer) are those who have family members or friends who have computers.

    On the other hand, the rest of the blog entry regarding professional amateurs makes perfect sense. I think professional amateur should encompass a larger entity than a single technical vehicle of business delivery (Web sites).

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