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I had an interesting discussion with a colleague the other day. Interesting because it was a great example of “not getting” the usability mindset.

A client (who’s in marketing, not a technically-minded person) requested that I not send her zipped files, as she was unable to open them. I happened to mention this to my colleague (who’s on the tech side).

He sneered “Well that’s just a lazy or unsophisticated user”, and implied that I shouldn’t  grant her request.

Really? We shouldn’t accommodate such users?

Before we decide whether these traits deserve punishment, let’s examine what it means to be “lazy” or “unsophisticated” in the context of email, websites, apps, etc.

Being Lazy

If being “lazy” means not liking to fill out long forms, scour online help, read manuals and basically “figure stuff out”… then guess what. 90% of users are “lazy”. Myself included.

Users have better things to do than “figure out” how to use our websites. Assuming users will do so is the height of arrogance. As designers/developers, it’s our job to ensure our site’s functions are not merely self-explanatory, but self-evident. (For more about the distinction, see this post.)

Being Unsophisticated

If being “unsophisticated” means not being technically savvy… then guess what. 90% of users are unsophisticated, including (arguably) me.

When, for example, users want to play a video, they don’t want to be told they must “install a new codec”. They have no flipping idea what codec is, and aren’t remotely interested in finding out. They just want to play the danged video. As designers/developers, it’s our job to make it work easily (e.g. by embedding a YouTube video).

Designing for the lazy and unsophisticated

The vast majority of the population is either lazy (i.e. they don’t want to work hard to figure out our products) or unsophisticated (i.e. not well versed on the latest technologies).

In fact, when it comes down to it, if you’re not lazy or unsophisticated in technical matters, you’re probably a geek.

But most of our end users aren’t geeks. They’re just normal folk, trying to get something done.

We shouldn’t design for the expert, highly motivated minority. We should design for real people, who have other more pleasant things to do than “figure stuff out”. Meeting the needs of the lazy and unsophisticated is our job.

Being rather lazy and unsophisticated myself, I find it easy to relate to normal folk. Which is why I enjoy working in UX.

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