Sometimes it hits like a ton on bricks. That a-ha moment. As experience designers, we need to get out of our own heads and not forget the “bookends” factoring in both older senior citizens and the young. Demonstrating empathy of their worlds and how they use products differently from each other and from us will only help us to create better products that can span across generations. It doesn’t necessarily mean designing different products, but just being aware of the different uses by various people. Products like the iPhone are used by those of all ages with different goals in mind from us and from each other. But the one thing in common is use of the actual device.
I started thinking about this when my 14 year old son told me that he was assigned a fairly lengthy paper to be completed in one day. He had started it in Study Hall and completed four paragraphs during that time. This was all done on his iPhone. To me, having learned to type on a keyboard and finding that much easier and faster to use than typing on my iPhone, questioned how difficult that was for him. We had a conversation and it turned out that for his generation who learned to type on their phones simultaneously (or in lieu of) a computer, it’s the preferred method for typing and they can accomplish what they need to in a shorter amount of time than it would take someone who initially learned to type on a keyboard (typewriter – cough, cough). I never would have considered that this could be so if I hadn’t talked to him about it.
The other “bookend” is the senior citizen. We need to remember that their minds are not as flexible and open as those younger. Their experiences (like any of our own personal experiences) are their own and they may have trouble breaking out of their myopic vision. This thought was sparked by a phone call from my mother after a major snowstorm hit the East Coast. She called me way too late, assuming that I wouldn’t be going into work the next day. From her own perspective, she couldn’t get past the fact that maybe I would be staying home, but that I would be working. For her, the connected worker or office doesn’t exist because prior to retiring, there was no such thing. If you stayed home, you didn’t work. While she doesn’t have an iPhone “yet”, she was discussing getting one with my 16 year old son, when he was showing her all the cool things he does with his. I guarantee that she won’t be typing any papers on the device, but will have other needs she wants to accomplish. Her use of the iPhone keyboard will be very different, and maybe if we can get her to break out of her way of thinking, she won’t type at all, but will use the built-in microphone (or Siri) to accomplish her needs.
What are your experiences with the “bookend” generations?