Assumptions about users (bluecollar=inexperienced?)

22 Dec 2005 - 11:03am
10 years ago
3 replies
398 reads
Akanowicz Ron

This reminds me of a usability test I conducted when working for a large
shipping company back in '99.

We had a man from a warehouse in to test, and after he sat there for
about five minutes doing nothing I asked him if he was alright. He was
very nervous and went on to tell me that the computer in the warehouse
didn't have a mouse, that he wasn't sure how to use it, but then very
defensively told me he did in fact know how to read and that so-n-so
that he worked with couldn't even read. It was astounding.

I do think we're technically jaded and don't realize how scary,
dumbfounding, and confusing computers and technology can be to a LOT of

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at
[mailto:discuss-bounces at] On Behalf Of
Ockler, Sarah
Sent: Thursday, December 22, 2005 10:58 AM
To: IxD Discussion
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Assumptions about users

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted

From: George Schneiderman [mailto:schneidg at]
>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.
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22 Dec 2005 - 11:40am
Marko Hurst

I'm jumping in on this a little late and isn't related to healthcare I thought I'd share some recent info on a current project. I think it goes to show that this is where solid market segmentation (qualitative) data as a foundation combined with a healthy dose of one-on-one (ethnographic) or similar are required as usual.

Recently (within last 3 weeks), my team (NYC advertising agency) conducted a series of interviews in 6 rural cities with blue-collar mothers. Without getting into our full discoveries here nearly all households did have a PC, the majority of households were dual income, the mothers were surprising adept at getting around the internet and used it quite extensively.

They used the Web mainly for email & comparative shopping. And could find coupons & discounts 'with the greatest of ease', looked hard at warranties, and were not afraid to spend time hunting around to find the best deal. The bottom-line is what meant the most to them.

Once they found the best deal they printed or gathered any info. necessary, but did NOT purchase online. They felt the Internet is not safe enough to input their personal info. and while they could get around many product or company websites quite well, they were very ignorant of or had no use for many other web technologies.

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29 Dec 2005 - 4:17am

I get the impression people are confusing consumerism for the stereotypical
image of a blue collar worker.

Something that I was talking about a few days ago to someone else is that
many of us forget that PCs and computer devices are now consumer items. Its
not uncommon when you go to some ones house to look to see if they have a PC
and where it is, in much the same way years ago, people used to check to see
if you had a colour TV or not. Ability to use the product depends on their
usage model.

Typically your average consumer is not very savvy when it comes to
computers; they'd probably know the basics - much like using a toaster or a
video recorder - switching it on and performing a basic task is about as
complex as it gets. That is the capability of most people (the consumer

Only 5-10 years ago the PC was not a consumer item. It was likely that those
who owned them worked with them in some fashion. Because they were high cost
non consumer, it would be unlikely for someone who did not work in the field
to own one.

Blue-collar work simply means non-office work (A white collar worker wore a
shirt), doesn't reflect that someone may be working in a highly skilled
field. It simply means that their job involves a component of manual work.

Tuning an electronic fuel injection system on a car would be a classic
example of someone fairly well skilled but still a blue collar worker, a
computer technician is probably a better example.

However these people are all still consumers because they purchase the
product to perform a task, rather than to purchase the product to create a
new tool. Consumers tend to be literate in only the functionality they use,
rather than in every intricate part of the system.

To me a consumer would be someone that is 'inexperienced', not someone who
has had a job or class stereotype applied to them.

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

31 Dec 2005 - 10:56am

> The current battle per the original post is about user guides,
> and why so many people assume they are needed ...
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.

I agree that "paper user guides are not the answer to solving issues,"
whether for multiple personas or not.But the question you ask is "why so
many people assume they are needed." There are many answers, but I believe
that the first one, below, is the real crux of the matter:
1. Software apps, whether one-page web forms, or 1000-pg client-server apps
have a size that is invisible to the user. I often picture an analogy to
someone walking among cubicles. If you are not tall enough to see over them,
you have no idea how big the maze is. A printed guide is a birds-eye-view
map. When you have the printed matter in your hand you instantly understand
if in fact the one page web form that you see is the whole system or just
the first of 1000 pages. I predict that eventually all apps and sites will
have an additional form of map, a visitation map, like a Battleship or
Minesweeper grid to proactively answer this mystery without killing trees.
2. Information formatted for successive paper pages (a book) guides you.
Only the most cutting edge web apps do so. Account Managers do not have a
widespread expectation that apps will guide them, and rightly so.
3. Even apps that answer item 2, above, might have a substantial mental
model change. Guidance must occur beforehand, not in-time.
4. If the app is in fact of trivial size and mental impact, then we have
boiled down the resistance to mere weakness of the flesh, right? But only an
undefined proportion of the population is willing to learn by clicking
(experimenting... walking into blind corners of the cubicle maze). Are you
satisfied to merely brush off those that aren't? I frequently make one-page
brochures to answer this need... to show that the app is in fact one page.

There are probably a few more reasons... compliance, responsibility,
information density of paper, incompleteness of software, etc.


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