UX Magazine

Defining and Informing the Complex Field of User Experience (UX)
Article No. 484 February 12, 2010

These are your users... read and be horrified

This came to my attention via my friend and colleague Sean Christmann (@seanalltogether) from EffectiveUI, who writes:

The next time you're building software and think to yourself, "Don't worry, users will be able to figure it out," I want you to remember this blog post.

ReadWriteWeb recently published an article titled Facebook Wants to Be Your One True Login. Being an interesting, timely article, it rose to the top of Google searches for "Facebook login." Then: chaos and confusion. Lots and lots of the people who use Google instead of their browser's address bar to access sites began confusing the ReadWriteWeb link with a link to Facebook itself, and began posting angry comments wondering why Facebook had been redesigned and asking when they'd be allowed to log in again. RRW posted a fascinating response to this bizarre event wherein they attribute the failure to Google, and note the disturbing security implications… makes for very interesting reading.

But definitely set aside some time to read some of the comments thread on the original article. It's really eye-opening. And if you haven't already seen it, check out this video of a Google rep asking random people, "What's a browser?" and "What's the difference between Google and a browser?" I'm betting the people who got those answers wrong are the same sorts of people who flamed the RWW post.

Remember these people when you're designing your products.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

User Profile

Jonathan (@first_day) is a tech-focused jack of all trades and the editor-in-chief of UX Magazine. He is also the author of Effective UI: The Art of Building Great User Experience in Software, published by O'Reilly Media. Through its partnership with UX Magazine, Jonathan is also a senior advisor to Didus, a recruiting and career development company focused on user-centered professionals. As well, Jonathan is Managing Director, Product Strategy & Design for Dapperly, a fashion-oriented software product startup, and he is the Principal of First Day, a small private equity and consulting company. From 2005 to 2009, Jonathan helped found EffectiveUI, a leading UX strategy, design, and development agency focused on web, desktop, and mobile systems.

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Comments

5
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Aah yes, using a dumb blonde to emphasize your point. Brilliant.

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Hah yeah, it's trite I suppose, but don't read too much into it. It's just stock art an intern chose, and pretty much any search phrase you use in a stock photography site will return pictures of pretty women, and I'm sure the intern chose this one because of the confused look, not the hair color.

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This is hilarious! Just made me rethink users and what they think they know. Highlight of my day for sure!!

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@Ryan

"Because these users, who represent probably at least 60-70% of the market"

I'd change that to 90%, with the remaining 10% split between tech-lovers and wannabe tech lovers (dads).

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Please God, keep blessing America till it REALLY works.

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Interesting, but there's a problem with the interview itself. It's clear that the people think they are being tested, and are worried about getting the right answer. The question sets them up for anxiety and failure. A better approach would be to ask them 'tell me how you use the internet' or something like that.

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I think we're missing the point if we call these people stupid. The question is: do these people know how to use the browser or search for something on the web? In general the answer would be yes.

Most of us can use a knife without cutting ourselves, but we don't actually know where the "bolster" is. http://www.jayfisher.com/knife_anatomy,_parts,_names.htm#Knife_Component_Illustrations_with_Descriptions

The virtual world of the web is a difficult concept to describe with words, but that doesn't prevent people from using it once they "get it" through inference and example. As UX designers our job is to create software that people can use with pleasure without necessarily knowing what all the bits are called.

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Thanks all for the useful information.. :)

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Sadly, the words for "browser" and "search engine" even rhyme in Slovak - some people even think it's the same word.
Makes me sad.

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I get no sound on this video, only crappy music

56
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Silly people. Everyone knows that a Browser is Mario's nemesis :sarcasm:

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This is why a good marketing department and a good development team will never get along, but will always be successful.

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Oh come on, I sure most users haven't forgotten what the Internet really is...

...it's that blue "e" on their desktop! ;-)

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my previous post was directed @Stilgherrian

45
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Americans are soo damn stupid!

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But you're cheating, You're asking Americans!, They only know they are the best thing after Jesus even if they don't actually know where USA is looking in a world map.

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hmm browser....
like lynx..(or links)
like mosaic...
or navigator in like netscape...
oh hell..
pple are stupid,
and so are browsers,

is wget a browser?
i know Curl can act ilke one...

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Google is internet? Pfff... well, this crap came from the same group of uneducated, ignorant, illiterate people who ARE ACTUALLY SURE good old Uncle Bill Gates CREATED the Internet and/or computers!

You can't ask too much from people who is, mostly in every topic, completely clueless.

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Sure, people are foolish and sound stupid when trying to understand google and a browser.

The question to ask yourself is this: how often does your interaction require the user to distinguish between the two? Answer that and you'll find this issue is much smaller than the video would have you believe.

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Oh come on. It's Times Square. It's like shooting fish in a barrel!

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If this was Facebook, I would give Stilgherrian a 'like' thumbs up.

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I'm more concerned that there are 5 pages of "Facebook Login" queries and then 39 pages of mocking.

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Well, it is a ridiculous sample from which to draw any conclusions. It was just a few published interviews selected for laughs.

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Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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I'm a Web Developer... I'm going to go jump of a bridge now.

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This doesnt surprise me considering when someone says "Google it" instead of "Use firefox and type something in the search box".

As much as some of you are laughing, I wish technology was this transparent and people could just access information without limitation of platform/product.

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After watching this, i came to conclusion that or i am too smart or people are just too dumb :/

Hmm.. thinking better, after i saw what happened at readwriteweb.com's "Facebook Wants to Be Your One True Login" article, people are really stupid.. I should take a note on that when making my next design.

Thanks for sharing this info/video.

Best Regards,
RaphaelDDL

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“Just think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are even stupider!” -- George Carlin

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There are more of them than there are of us.

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Still looking how to login to Facebook?

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"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools."
Douglas Adams

'nuf said.

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That is priceless and absolutely correct. Finding out some of the convoluted ways users have "used" the system is truly amazing. Who knew they could be so clever, when so clueless....

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This doesn't surprise me, I always knew 90% of the people on this planet were just plain stupid. This video proves it, If I could stop the world and get off I would!

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Right, it's horrible...many people use Internet and they don't know their own software, that allow them to use Internet.

It's like people who surf everyday and don't know that there are Business behind! they don't know what is web design for example...

and for google chrome...yes, when you buy a computer, there is just Internet Explorer...how do you think that they can know google chrome...(or firefox, opera or what you want)...

they are like "stupid users".

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Oh dear.

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To those above using the car analogy, I'd like to point out that it's actually far less similar to knowing the mechanics of how an engine works and what all the individual components do to make it work (that's like saying every internet user should understand the mechanisms of the HTTP protocol and all that malarkey) and instead much more analogous to the kind of user who doesn't even know whether it's the big circular thing in front of then or the little pedal-things down there that make the car go forwards. The kind of people who probably shouldn't be driving anyway.

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Hehe.. liked it...

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I couldn't make it all the way through that video. I hate my users.

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This video saddens me as it's just another example of the general dumbing down of society!!

I'm not saying that everyone should know what a browser is, it's just another telling example of how people are not encouraged to know about stuff these day. To explore, to query, to look behind the scenes and find out how things work. And how companies are encouraging this rather than striving to expand peoples knowledge.

I imagine however, if a similar poll were taken about the goings on in the life of some tv celebrity, the chances are most average people would know the answer. How sad is that!!

So many people are wrapped up in absorbing celebrity gossip, innane tv drivel and all the other rubbish that we are bombarded with through the media and consumer society these days, that the aquisition of less transient information, and true personal inquiry have taken a back seat.

This trend has been encouraged no less by companies and governments intent on creating an unquestioning herd mentality among the population, where the tenets of conformity and consumerism are savagely promoted at the expense of more intrinsic human concerns.

Simplicity in technology is important, but not at the expense of simplifying ones mind.

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"Simplicity in technology is important, but not at the expense of simplifying ones mind."

That's a brilliant saying, it's going to go on my wall.

While simplifying technology and making it easier to use is important, there is a minimum that a user should know to use it. For instance, phishing attacks are successful because users don't know how to use and read the URL address bar properly, which created the Facebook/ReadWriteWeb problem because of users typing 'Facebook login' into Google.

I'm sorry, but I'm firmly in the camp of the 'Facebook users were stupid and shouldn't be using a computer' on this one. Yes we shouldn't assume everyone is a Geek, but a bare absolute minimum amount of knowledge of the internet should be a must.

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Thank you!

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Really interesting post.

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Great stuff!

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That's great! Where can I get more information?

47
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That's exactly what I was looking for! Thank you!

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Great post!

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Thank you for your advice!

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I couldn't get through the whole video. Uggh.

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All of the commenters here, as on ReadWriteWeb are missing quite a few things:

1) The branding on readwriteweb was (a) a different colour, (b) nothing like facebook's, and (c) had "ReadWriteWeb" in big letters. To those that deal with UX, marketing and other such - this is a big deal. If these people are your average audience, then they don't notice branding at all - you've all screwed up.

2) The comment link (and the facebook connect - where they had to login) was well "below the fold". They'd scrolled down - not reading even one sentence (there was a large bold paragraph pointing out that this wasn't facebook) until they found what they wanted. This means that your users won't bother to read anything, so why bother to publish any text. Also, why optimise your design for above the fold - they'll still scroll down.

3) Users, presented with something unexpected, can't be bothered to even do basic analysis to work out if they might be at fault. Don't bother putting up error messages, just make sure everything works 100% of the time.

Now, obviously none of these things are really true about most users. Maybe 100-200 people commented on ReadWriteWeb. If we go with 60m people in the UK, and 300m in the US, that's not even 1 in a million users.

While you don't need to know about how a car works in order to drive, I'd hope that if the car won't start and a new light is showing on your dashboard that you think that perhaps the new light is worth investigating as it might be a cause of why your car won't start. If you don't have the basic reasoning skills to do this, you probably shouldn't have a licence to drive a car.

Are all websites really supposed to cater to 100% of users, or is 99.999% good enough?

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This is a pointer to why Apple is succeeding I think. They know that no-one would bother to uninstall the OS from a PC and install a new one (most of them not having any clue what an OS is), so they design and build sleek looking hardware that has their OS preloaded - the only way to take market share off MS.

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