Assumptions about users (blue collar=inexperienced?)

20 Dec 2005 - 5:38pm
8 years ago
13 replies
454 reads
Ockler, Sarah
2004

We posted an internal release about not creating paper user guides for
our Web sites, but creating better instructional content/cleaner process
on the actual site pages. Received this from an internal employee today
about a specific member group (we're a health insurance company) using
our member Web site:
------------------------
"Their [automotive parts manufacturer] blue-collar work force may not
have home access to a PC and when at work, they rarely (if ever) use the
internet. In my experiences, it's been this demographic that has the
greatest degree of difficulty with using the member site. Anyway, I
understand, and from our perspective, in our business world, couldn't
agree with you more. However, I think we also need to keep in mind the
demographic pieces of our membership that are far from PC-literate."
------------------------
We actually hear this from a lot of our sales folks.
"Retail/blue-collar/insert non-degreed job here/ don't have Internet
access and probably don't know how to use it anyway..." Though we've
NEVER received a complaint from the members directly on this.

My thoughts for comment:

1) If someone truly "rarely (if ever) uses the Internet," is that person
really going to use a Web site to manage his health benefits plan, which
is over-complicated on it's own? Are the employers pushing these guys to
use the site? Or do they really want to learn "Web" and they've chosen
their health plan Web site as an introduction to self-service online?
Seems highly unlikely.

2) Blue collar doesn't equate "may not have home access to a PC" to me.
We sell health benefits in the US. If the US stat for household
Internet access/usage is near 70%, does that mean that 70% of Americans
have white collar jobs? Where is this assumption coming from? Let's
assume these workers aren't calling up their account manager and saying
"I don't know how to use the Web, I feel left out, I need a paper
manual."

3) Some employers are setting up Internet kiosks to allow members to
access our site at work. This sounds like a security risk to me,
considering the member health plan Web site includes info like your SSN,
date of birth, your dependents, your address, medical conditions, Rx,
etc. In fact I'd like to warn employers NOT to offer this option.

Any thoughts?

-Sarah

Comments

20 Dec 2005 - 6:14pm
Steve Baty
2009

Sarah,

I know that historically speaking Internet usage in Australia was dominated
by professional/white collar males, but more recent usage data suggests that
the take up of Internet connectivity is much more representative of the
population as a whole.

However, anecdotal evidence suggests that actual usage of that connection,
particularly in family environments, is dominated by the children in the
family, where the service was put in place as an aid to education. So it may
still be the case that blue collar workers do not spend much time using the
Web or email either at home or at work even though they have the capability
at home.

More importantly, though, your first point is likely to be close to the
mark: those customers who spend little time on the Web would be less
inclined to manage online a complex product like healthcare.

A survey (offline) might be the only way to answer this question for your
particular customer base.

Regards,

Steve Baty
Director, user experience strategy
Red Square

On 21/12/05, Ockler, Sarah <sarah.ockler at gwl.com> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> ------------------------
> "Their [automotive parts manufacturer] blue-collar work force may not
> have home access to a PC and when at work, they rarely (if ever) use the
> internet. In my experiences, it's been this demographic that has the
> greatest degree of difficulty with using the member site. Anyway, I
> understand, and from our perspective, in our business world, couldn't
> agree with you more. However, I think we also need to keep in mind the
> demographic pieces of our membership that are far from PC-literate."
> ------------------------
> We actually hear this from a lot of our sales folks.
> "Retail/blue-collar/insert non-degreed job here/ don't have Internet
> access and probably don't know how to use it anyway..." Though we've
> NEVER received a complaint from the members directly on this.
>
> My thoughts for comment:
>
> 1) If someone truly "rarely (if ever) uses the Internet," is that person
> really going to use a Web site to manage his health benefits plan, which
> is over-complicated on it's own? Are the employers pushing these guys to
> use the site? Or do they really want to learn "Web" and they've chosen
> their health plan Web site as an introduction to self-service online?
> Seems highly unlikely.
>
> 2) Blue collar doesn't equate "may not have home access to a PC" to me.
> We sell health benefits in the US. If the US stat for household
> Internet access/usage is near 70%, does that mean that 70% of Americans
> have white collar jobs? Where is this assumption coming from? Let's
> assume these workers aren't calling up their account manager and saying
> "I don't know how to use the Web, I feel left out, I need a paper
> manual."
>
> 3) Some employers are setting up Internet kiosks to allow members to
> access our site at work. This sounds like a security risk to me,
> considering the member health plan Web site includes info like your SSN,
> date of birth, your dependents, your address, medical conditions, Rx,
> etc. In fact I'd like to warn employers NOT to offer this option.
>

21 Dec 2005 - 12:34am
Lyle Kantrovich
2005

Sarah,

You might try to get some stats on your users to help address these
assumptions (which may be right or wrong).

Short of that, you might check into research done by Pew (in the U.S.)
which would provide some more detailed breakdown of Internet usage by
different demographics.

Another thing to consider (that I've seen on my own projects) is that
sometimes it's not actually the employee accessing the benefits site,
but a more web-savvy family member or spouse.

http://www.pewinternet.org/

Hope that helps.

Lyle

--------------------------
Lyle Kantrovich
Blog: Croc O' Lyle
http://crocolyle.blogspot.com

Usability Professionals' Association
http://www.usabilityprofessionals.org

22 Dec 2005 - 8:59am
Joe Sokohl
2004

On Dec 21, 2005, at 3:01 PM,
discuss-request at lists.interactiondesigners.com wrote:

> "Their [automotive parts manufacturer] blue-collar work force may not
> have home access to a PC and when at work, they rarely (if ever) use
> the
> internet. In my experiences, it's been this demographic that has the
> greatest degree of difficulty with using the member site.

This quotation also illustrates the danger of using only demographics
as input to user research. Talking to actual blue-collar automative
workers with a survey, or even visiting some workers at home would give
perhaps better information. Then again, does the marketing person have
data that have been used to create the demographic? Maybe they have
already done this sort of survey.

Of course, we in the IT world tend to see everyone like us...remember
the whole customization thang of the late 90s? "Everyone will configure
their own experience--they just have to select "Customize," then the
name of the section they're customizing, select an item from the list
on the left, then click this right-facing right-angle-bracket thingy to
move the select items to the right (to select contiguous items, first
click the first item, then hold the shift key down, then select the
last item; to move multiple but noncontiguous items. hold the Ctrl key
on the PC or the Command key on the Macintosh and select each item
individually), then select OK." Our research at IconMedialab showed
that almost no one configured (customized) their own experience. Much
money spent on little return.

Still, since this application is for an internal audience, you really
should be able to interact with them and get real data.

Best of luck,

joe

--
http://facetime.blogspot.com
804.873.6964 (c)
--
"No man is a failure who has friends" ___Clarence

22 Dec 2005 - 10:48am
George Schneiderman
2004

> 1) If someone truly "rarely (if ever) uses the Internet," is that
> person
> really going to use a Web site to manage his health benefits plan,
> which
> is over-complicated on it's own? Are the employers pushing these guys
> to
> use the site? Or do they really want to learn "Web" and they've chosen
> their health plan Web site as an introduction to self-service online?
> Seems highly unlikely.
Are they giving them any choice? Or is the web site the only way for
these people to sign up for benefits?

> 2) Blue collar doesn't equate "may not have home access to a PC" to me.
> We sell health benefits in the US. If the US stat for household
> Internet access/usage is near 70%, does that mean that 70% of Americans
> have white collar jobs? Where is this assumption coming from? Let's
> assume these workers aren't calling up their account manager and saying
> "I don't know how to use the Web, I feel left out, I need a paper
> manual."

As other have pointed out, there is certainly a generational aspect to
this.

That said, there can be an astonishing "bubble effect" amongst those of
us who see that everyone we know personally uses the internet. I used
to work for a company that did wireless business automation software
mostly for blue collar workers. At one point, I spend a day with a
printer repair technician, going on his rounds as he visited
companies--mostly NYC law firms--to do maintenance and repairs on small
to medium office laser printers. Anyhow, in the course of the day we
talked, and I discovered not only that he had never used a computer,
but that he had no idea what the Internet was. Anecdotal, of course--I
don't know how typical this is. But I was pretty astounded.
Incidentally, this was a pretty young guy--probably no more than 25,
and native born (i.e., not an immigrant). Broadly speaking, I would
say that if you are designing work-related systems for blue collar
workers and don't have good data to work with, that it would be prudent
to assume that a sizable proportion of your user pool will not be
"computer literate".

--George

22 Dec 2005 - 10:57am
Ockler, Sarah
2004

From: George Schneiderman [mailto:schneidg at earthlink.net]
>Are they giving them any choice? Or is the web site the only way for
these people to sign up for benefits?

No, they actually don't sign up for benefits online. They do that
through their employer. To manage their benefits, they can either use
the Web or the traditional phone/paper/employer method. We are currently
at 30% of eligible users registered for the Web, so 70% are still using
traditional methods.

22 Dec 2005 - 11:20am
George Schneiderman
2004

> No, they actually don't sign up for benefits online. They do that
> through their employer. To manage their benefits, they can either use
> the Web or the traditional phone/paper/employer method. We are
> currently
> at 30% of eligible users registered for the Web, so 70% are still using
> traditional methods.

Presumably, your employer's primary reasons for offering online benefit
management are twofold:
--to lower their costs
--to improve user satisfaction

You can probably make a pretty compelling case that the only people who
are likely to experience increased satisfaction from online management
are those who are already comfortable using the Web, and that such
people would not benefit from a "user manual" if the site is well
designed.

So then, the question becomes, will having a paper user manual induce
enough of those 70% of "traditional" "users" to switch to the web to
justify the costs associated with writing, editing, printing, and
distributing such a manual, as well as the costs of updating it as
required when the website changes. Try framing the question in this
way.

--George

28 Dec 2005 - 9:21am
Susie Robson
2004

Hi,

I only have my own thoughts on this--obviously you will want to do your due diligence to get the best answers.

However, I grew up in a blue collar family in a blue collar town (GM was the main industry). First thing is that not all blue collar workers are equal. I CAN tell you that the blue collar workers at GM most likely do have at least one computer at home with broadband (unlike me who works in software and still uses a dialup). GM workers tend to have all the toys that are available--computers, PDAs, many cars, boats, ATVs, snow mobiles, motorcycles, and on and on. My parents have a much more up to date computer than I do. I think the way they use the computer is different, though. Email, sharing photos, shopping comparison, and for some reason, geneology research are the big reasons I hear from people back in my home town.

Of course, there are other blue collar people that don't work at GM or some such place. I really don't think they are that different as a whole group, though I'm sure that there are some who don't know how to use a computer and don't own one.

I remember a few years ago someone had mentioned to me that they felt sorry for the farmers in the midwest who have probably never seen a computer. I had to laugh. I know a lot of midwest farmers and they order their supplies online, do their budgets on the computer, etc. They are actually pretty savvy. Though now that I say all that, I have to say that their wives tend to do a lot of the computer work but I don't think it's because the men don't know how.

Anyway, just some random thoughts on blue collar and computers.

28 Dec 2005 - 9:29am
Dave Malouf
2005

While I think that the original post might have over-generalized the title
of the persona to all "blue collar" workers, I do think there is substance
to the question, "How do we design intelligent systems that account for
multiple types of digital lifestyles?"

I still think that there is real need for a wholistic multi-tiered approach
to many generic services. Banks do this still today by offering both ATM,
online, and phone-based interfaces to basically the same information. Yes, I
can't take cash out of my phone (yet!), but I can get statements, do
transfers, and even pay bills.

This to me points to a major problem, when we start a project by saying, "we
need to have a web solution."

I do also want to more generally concur that there is no single blue-collar
persona. Many blue collar folks work with technology every day in some
capacity, and many more have computers at home for no other reason than they
have kids and schools are practically making computers a requirement for
many people regardless of class background or job type.

Again, that isn't to say that there isn't a significant group of people
blue-collar or otherwise who have not incorporated computing and computers
into their home lives, the same way there are still people on this planet
who don't watch TV or have a cellphone. Yikes!

-- dave

28 Dec 2005 - 10:41am
Susie Robson
2004

Ack! I forgot to add---a few years ago I tried a career change and switched to real estate sales. Talk about a large group of people who have NO idea how to use a computer but must in order to do their jobs well!! I spent a lot of my time helping people to read and send email. Most had no idea how to use Word or most other typical software. It was quite an eye opener. In many ways, which is why I'm back in software. So glad to be back.

-----Original Message-----
From: David Heller <dave at ixdg.org>
To: IxD Discussion <discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com>
Sent: Wed, 28 Dec 2005 09:29:40 -0500
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Assumptions about users (blue collar=inexperienced?)

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]

While I think that the original post might have over-generalized the title
of the persona to all "blue collar" workers, I do think there is substance
to the question, "How do we design intelligent systems that account for
multiple types of digital lifestyles?"

I still think that there is real need for a wholistic multi-tiered approach
to many generic services. Banks do this still today by offering both ATM,
online, and phone-based interfaces to basically the same information. Yes, I
can't take cash out of my phone (yet!), but I can get statements, do
transfers, and even pay bills.

This to me points to a major problem, when we start a project by saying, "we
need to have a web solution."

I do also want to more generally concur that there is no single blue-collar
persona. Many blue collar folks work with technology every day in some
capacity, and many more have computers at home for no other reason than they
have kids and schools are practically making computers a requirement for
many people regardless of class background or job type.

Again, that isn't to say that there isn't a significant group of people
blue-collar or otherwise who have not incorporated computing and computers
into their home lives, the same way there are still people on this planet
who don't watch TV or have a cellphone. Yikes!

-- dave

________________________________________________________________
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28 Dec 2005 - 12:33pm
dugla
2005

I'm getting to this thread late, so I may be restating previous points.

The notion of blue collar as inexperienced is a bit comical when you
look at the construction trade. That industry is seriously tech laden
with a GUI everywhere you look.

In fact it would probably make an excellent field trip for folks to
spend a few hours at your local construction site and what the
techfest unfold.

Regards,
Doug Turner
skype: dduuggllaa
mobile: 781 775 3708

28 Dec 2005 - 1:58pm
Lilly Irani
2004

What an awesome resource. Wow. Thanks, Lyle! One thing to remember when
reading typical digital divide and access studies is they don't always
account for the *kinds* of access people have. Some people might have
limited access to the internet for work purposes but still aren't able to
afford it or don't see the need to have it at home. So simply having access
doesn't having access to the same kind of internet that I have access to.

I'd imagine this would play itself out in:
* familiarity with design patterns
* comfort and happiness using the web
* ability to access web outside of work context
* ability to access web privately

On 12/20/05, Lyle Kantrovich <lyle.kantrovich at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Sarah,
>
> You might try to get some stats on your users to help address these
> assumptions (which may be right or wrong).
>
> Short of that, you might check into research done by Pew (in the U.S.)
> which would provide some more detailed breakdown of Internet usage by
> different demographics.
>
> Another thing to consider (that I've seen on my own projects) is that
> sometimes it's not actually the employee accessing the benefits site,
> but a more web-savvy family member or spouse.
>
> http://www.pewinternet.org/
>
> Hope that helps.
>
> Lyle
>
> --------------------------
> Lyle Kantrovich
> Blog: Croc O' Lyle
> http://crocolyle.blogspot.com
>
> Usability Professionals' Association
> http://www.usabilityprofessionals.org
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

28 Dec 2005 - 4:30pm
Ockler, Sarah
2004

Thanks everyone for your feedback. The original post was in fact about
blue collar workers specifically b/c it related to a note I received
from an account manager of a blue collar employer (we're the health
insurance company for that employer). This A.M. made assumptions based
on the fact that the users in this group are literally blue collar
workers.

Fortunately I'm not battling forces at work about designing the best
application for multiple personas (everyone agrees that we need to do
that). The current battle per the original post is about user guides,
and why so many people assume they are needed (i.e. "these blue collar
workers don't have computers and don't know how to use the Web so they
need a user guide..."). I don't think paper user guides are the answer
to solving issues for multiple personas, and that's the piece I'm having
trouble conveying.

In face, we contract with Mellon Bank for one of our financial health
products. Mellon has a separate Web application that we link to.
Yesterday they sent me a 17-page user guide complete with screen shots
of every possible scenario and want to distribute it to our employer
base (the users of the Mellon app). Now I'm stuck - we're internally
shouting "no more user guides!" yet we are forced to distribute one from
a vendor. How do we stop the insanity?

Do any of your clients or organizations have user guide issues (for web
applications)? I'm not exaggerating when I say that this issue comes up
every day, either as a request for a user guide or because we in
marketing learn of a user guide that was created ad hoc from another
department.

Thanks again all -
Sarah

-----Original Message-----
From:David Heller
>>
While I think that the original post might have over-generalized the
title of the persona to all "blue collar" workers, I do think there is
substance to the question, "How do we design intelligent systems that
account for multiple types of digital lifestyles?"
>>

28 Dec 2005 - 5:40pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Ah!!!! Now that issue is a lot more specific and quite honestly quite
irrelevant to personas per se at all.

My experience seems to share yours, whereby people do not RTFM at all, so
why create an M in the first place.
(RTFM = read the f**king manual).

A system should be able to be designed that is appropriate for the middle of
the road, but that is learnable for the novice and doesn't slow down too
much the advanced user (is there really such an animal in HR/Benefits
systems except for the administrators?)

My experience tells me that you need to have flexible context aware systems.
This is the trend I am reading from MS right now. Look at Vista and Office
12 and how they are presenting their findings.

1. Novices don't use help, experts do. This was a HUGE revelation for me and
really points to the idea that manuals are not ever the solution for systems
that should never have an expert point of view like these types of systems.
(BTW, I designed an early system for Mellon when they were Kwasha Lipton
some 10 years ago, as well as 401k systems for State Street, Prudential and
Merril Lynch.)

2. Only show what you can do NOW and how to get to other places. I.e. If
selection is required for an action, don't show the action until there is a
selection. Then if selection of only a specific object type is required and
so on.

These two principles are really driving my thinking right now in terms of
designing systems right now.

I also don't think this applies only to web apps especially since the
sources of information are from desktop software.

There is one Gotchya to all this and that is the posture of use. Most
web-apps have a low posture, that is to say that we don't sit in front of
them for hours at a time. We go in, do some quick work and then leave. This
is very different from an OS or Office Suite of software. Personally, while
I'm keeping this in mind, I find it isn't changing my thinking around
applying the two principles above.

Enjoy!

-- dave

On 12/28/05 4:30 PM, "Ockler, Sarah" <sarah.ockler at gwl.com> wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> Thanks everyone for your feedback. The original post was in fact about
> blue collar workers specifically b/c it related to a note I received
> from an account manager of a blue collar employer (we're the health
> insurance company for that employer). This A.M. made assumptions based
> on the fact that the users in this group are literally blue collar
> workers.
>
> Fortunately I'm not battling forces at work about designing the best
> application for multiple personas (everyone agrees that we need to do
> that). The current battle per the original post is about user guides,
> and why so many people assume they are needed (i.e. "these blue collar
> workers don't have computers and don't know how to use the Web so they
> need a user guide..."). I don't think paper user guides are the answer
> to solving issues for multiple personas, and that's the piece I'm having
> trouble conveying.
>
> In face, we contract with Mellon Bank for one of our financial health
> products. Mellon has a separate Web application that we link to.
> Yesterday they sent me a 17-page user guide complete with screen shots
> of every possible scenario and want to distribute it to our employer
> base (the users of the Mellon app). Now I'm stuck - we're internally
> shouting "no more user guides!" yet we are forced to distribute one from
> a vendor. How do we stop the insanity?
>
> Do any of your clients or organizations have user guide issues (for web
> applications)? I'm not exaggerating when I say that this issue comes up
> every day, either as a request for a user guide or because we in
> marketing learn of a user guide that was created ad hoc from another
> department.
>
> Thanks again all -
> Sarah
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From:David Heller
>>>
> While I think that the original post might have over-generalized the
> title of the persona to all "blue collar" workers, I do think there is
> substance to the question, "How do we design intelligent systems that
> account for multiple types of digital lifestyles?"
>>>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org

-- dave

David Heller
http://synapticburn.com/
http://ixdg.org/
Dave (at) ixdg (dot) org
Dave (at) synapticburn (dot) com
AIM: bolinhanyc || Y!: dave_ux || MSN: hippiefunk at hotmail.com

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