24 Feb Browsers, URLs, Facebook and expectations
By now, many of you will have seen the ReadWriteWeb confused as Facebook saga.
It’s an object lesson in the capabilities and expectations of everyday web use. And it’s one that we who make our livings by purporting to understand people and the way they use the web and other technology ought to be both abundantly aware of and keep frequently in mind.
Most people using the web aren’t especially technically capable. They don’t understand the difference between the search box and address box on the browser they’re using (one of the smartest people I know constantly frustrates me by using the search box to go to sites and declares it “easier” as I vent). They don’t know what a URL is nor how it works. Nor do they even understand what a browser is. Let alone that the web isn’t the Internet.
I used to be very much in the “well, they just have to learn” camp. These days, I’m very much the opposite.
As experience designers (or whatever we’re called these days), it’s very much our job to design to the capabilities of the people using the things we help build. At the same time, we should seek to educate them just a little bit, incrementally building their skills through our designs.
Most people using the web are not us. It’s our job to build to their skills, needs, mental models and expectations not their job to meet ours.
For us to expect the people using the things we build to have the desire to learn technical things like URL manipulation, or that Google, Facebook, or whatever their favorite site isn’t the web itself is a pretty selfish notion. This is all actually Communications 101. We speak to and can expect understanding from those we communicate with only when we communicate with them on their terms in their language. To expect anything else is distinctly inward focussed and will not result in the best possible experience for them.
Over at his blog, UI and US, my friend Keith Lang has written yet another useful piece of thinking on this issue. I recommend you read it.