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I’m with
Stupid
why smart people are so bad at computers
(and what to do about it)
Stephanie Leary, @sleary, sillybean.net...
My “Stupid Users”
• faculty
• students
• authors
• Mom
Working with Mom
•“We go to great lengths to ensure easy
understanding. We make the button look
like something you can pre...
Working with Mom
•“We use desktop as a reference,
windows, pull-downs, accordions, etc. We
call them metaphors, but very s...
Working with Mom
•“In the case of my mom, there is
obviously little connection between the
physical desktop and its digita...
• “And yea, upon teh n00bs, did Our
Geek Jobs set His Obsessive Eye. And
He brought forth a device of great sales
potentia...
Working with Profs
•“The computer just hates me.”
Working with Students
•“I thought it was just me.”
They assume they’re
doing something wrong.
They can’t see the
interface holistically.
Facebook & ReadWriteWeb
• People don’t understand the difference
between the location bar and the search
box.
Facebook & ReadWriteWeb
• People don’t notice peripherals: URLs,
page titles, even design and layout.
Facebook & ReadWriteWeb
• People use the search box as a natural-
language command line interface.
They’re afraid to make
the wrong move.
Working with a Computer
•“In abusive and controlling relationships,
the victim has the sense they are always
‘walking on e...
•“In relationships with an abuser or
controller, the victim has also experienced
a loss of self-esteem, self-confidence, a...
We are all trapped in
abusive relationships
with our computers.
Our users are afraid and
embarrassed to ask for
help.
“We’re the stupid
ones.”
We work with very
smart people.
We can do better.
1. Invite blame.
Better 404s
• apologetic, personal language
• search for words in the bad URL
• show search box and sitemap
DB & Server Errors
• phone numbers
• alternate methods
“Report a problem”
• contact form that automatically fills in
the referring URL
• link in every page’s footer
• Link Check...
Phone Numbers
• Put the main office line in the page
footer
• Add a phone number to the email
contact form
2. Find different
testers.
Unusual Suspects
• people in waiting rooms
• brown-bag lunch attendees
• new hires
• retirees
• accident-prone users
• rec...
3. Change the goals.
Users’ Goals
• accomplish tasks online 24/7
• find up-to-date information
• talk directly to professors,
administrators, e...
4. Explain the
metaphors.
Feeds
• icons with explanations
• email alternatives
Microformats
• Tell people what to do with vCards and
iCal files
• Link to explanations
Fewer options
Less clutter
This has to be easier.
Thank you.
Stephanie Leary
@sleary
sillybean.net
uwc.tamu.edu
I'm with Stupid
I'm with Stupid
I'm with Stupid
I'm with Stupid
I'm with Stupid
I'm with Stupid
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I'm with Stupid

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Why smart people are so bad at computers, and what to do about it. (Keynote presentation, Arkansas Regional HighEdWeb conference, 2010)

Published in: Technology
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I'm with Stupid

  1. 1. I’m with Stupid why smart people are so bad at computers (and what to do about it) Stephanie Leary, @sleary, sillybean.net Texas A&M University
  2. 2. My “Stupid Users” • faculty • students • authors • Mom
  3. 3. Working with Mom •“We go to great lengths to ensure easy understanding. We make the button look like something you can press.” “Anatomy of a Noob”: http://tinyurl.com/noob-anatomy
  4. 4. Working with Mom •“We use desktop as a reference, windows, pull-downs, accordions, etc. We call them metaphors, but very seldom do we question whether those metaphors are as intuitive and universally understood as we assume.” “Anatomy of a Noob”: http://tinyurl.com/noob-anatomy
  5. 5. Working with Mom •“In the case of my mom, there is obviously little connection between the physical desktop and its digital counterpart.” “Anatomy of a Noob”: http://tinyurl.com/noob-anatomy
  6. 6. • “And yea, upon teh n00bs, did Our Geek Jobs set His Obsessive Eye. And He brought forth a device of great sales potential: the iThing, which one can touch with thine finger. • And lo! did teh n00bs poke and jabbeth at the iThing, achieving much of what was desired.”
  7. 7. Working with Profs •“The computer just hates me.”
  8. 8. Working with Students •“I thought it was just me.”
  9. 9. They assume they’re doing something wrong.
  10. 10. They can’t see the interface holistically.
  11. 11. Facebook & ReadWriteWeb • People don’t understand the difference between the location bar and the search box.
  12. 12. Facebook & ReadWriteWeb • People don’t notice peripherals: URLs, page titles, even design and layout.
  13. 13. Facebook & ReadWriteWeb • People use the search box as a natural- language command line interface.
  14. 14. They’re afraid to make the wrong move.
  15. 15. Working with a Computer •“In abusive and controlling relationships, the victim has the sense they are always ‘walking on eggshells’ - fearful of saying or doing anything that might prompt a violent/intimidating outburst.” “Defending Windows over Mac a sign of mental illness” http://tinyurl.com/abusive-computer
  16. 16. •“In relationships with an abuser or controller, the victim has also experienced a loss of self-esteem, self-confidence, and psychological energy. The victim may feel ‘burned out’ and too depressed to leave.” “Defending Windows over Mac a sign of mental illness” http://tinyurl.com/abusive-computer Working with a Computer
  17. 17. We are all trapped in abusive relationships with our computers.
  18. 18. Our users are afraid and embarrassed to ask for help.
  19. 19. “We’re the stupid ones.”
  20. 20. We work with very smart people.
  21. 21. We can do better.
  22. 22. 1. Invite blame.
  23. 23. Better 404s • apologetic, personal language • search for words in the bad URL • show search box and sitemap
  24. 24. DB & Server Errors • phone numbers • alternate methods
  25. 25. “Report a problem” • contact form that automatically fills in the referring URL • link in every page’s footer • Link Checker extension
  26. 26. Phone Numbers • Put the main office line in the page footer • Add a phone number to the email contact form
  27. 27. 2. Find different testers.
  28. 28. Unusual Suspects • people in waiting rooms • brown-bag lunch attendees • new hires • retirees • accident-prone users • receptionists
  29. 29. 3. Change the goals.
  30. 30. Users’ Goals • accomplish tasks online 24/7 • find up-to-date information • talk directly to professors, administrators, etc.
  31. 31. 4. Explain the metaphors.
  32. 32. Feeds • icons with explanations • email alternatives
  33. 33. Microformats • Tell people what to do with vCards and iCal files • Link to explanations
  34. 34. Fewer options
  35. 35. Less clutter
  36. 36. This has to be easier.
  37. 37. Thank you. Stephanie Leary @sleary sillybean.net uwc.tamu.edu

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