Why there are no stupid users online

When you’re one of the cool kids, it is pretty easy to forget that not everyone is in the cool club.

In fact, some people are so far removed from the cool club that they haven’t heard of Twitter, social media, ecommerce, WordPress, Android, the Nexus 1, or the RunKeeper iPhone application.

But generally, every human living in an advanced economy who can read has heard of Google and Facebook.

We’re so connected these days that it is easy to forget that there are a bunch of people who are not connected; who are yet to realise the liberating potential of the Internet.

And they know it. They know that no one uses the big yellow book to find a glazier or carpet cleaner. They know that their kids are doing things online that they might enjoy, that might make simple stuff easier but they haven’t made their move yet.

They are scared, intimidated and worried about looking stupid.

And all the cool kids reckon they are “stupid”. That’s why they are cool and not stupid, they are good at trying new stuff, seeing trends, labelling stuff.

Nothing online scares them. Except comic sans, fuscia backgrounds and being marketed to.

To me users should never be thought of as stupid. Rather, it is the marketers, designers and developers who make them feel stupid who are, well, stupid.

So many conversations in the tech, social, online communities concern the known world of tech, social and online.

It strikes me that it is a bubble where the people listening are the same people talking who are the same people publishing aphoristic thought bombs who are the same people reading the aphoristic thought bombs who are the same people thinking of the next aphoristic thought bomb.

It is exhausting, and to a complete outsider completely meaningless and uninteresting.

And because the same people are building the tools and selling the tools and dreaming up the next tools, the kids not part of the cool club are forgotten.

They are left to find their own way with poorly written copy, small fonts, poor documentation, badly handled errors, and unclear instructions.

And for anyone running an ecommerce site, a blog dependent on advertising, a remarketing program, or an online community dependent on user engagement and re-engagement this is not good for business.

Whilst Australia has high number of Internet and mobile users, future growth will come from people changing their habits and behaviours. This means they will go online, start booking stuff and buying online, connecting with friends online.

It is up to the people working to build online experiences on Internet devices to make this journey as easy as possible and remind all users that it is never the user, it is always the tool.

This means talking to people who you might not talk to often to find out how they use the Internet and if not why not.

This means looking outside the closed network for cool kids and digital hipsters to identify wants, needs, desires, fears and anxieties.

It means making sure that your website works for them and meets their needs.

It means having a presence in Google and Facebook which are two of the most common first steps online for a new user.
It means giving a voice to some members of the community who need it most by showing them how to setup a blog and start publishing.

The promise of the Internet and web 2.0 is social transformation for the better and we need to strive to make sure this promise can be delivered.

What do you think?