Friday, August 31, 2007

The Savviness Paradox

Should we be designing for the savvy user? ...

“As users get more and more savvy on the web …”

This statement is thrown around a lot in web developer circles. And it make me cringe every time. It implies that an entire culture is capable of becoming savvier on the web simply because the web has existed for a longer period of time now than it did a year ago.

Here’s the truth. Users don’t get savvier unless the technology gets easier.

The fact is, most people don’t ever get past an intermediate level of, well, anything. It’s extremely rare that we become experts at using a particular web application, or the web in general. More and more people are able to use the web (at least somewhat) effectively now because web designers continually get better at making things work well, instead of relying on users to magically become “savvier”.

A brick-and-mortar analogy:

No one wants to have to become an expert grocery shopper. Because of this, we’re not becoming expert grocery shoppers. We have better things to do - better things to be experts on.

Instead, grocery stores are being redesigned left and right to make things easier. Signs are redesigned to be clearer. Merchandise is reorganized to make it easier to find. Store maps are redesigned to improve the flow from one type of product to the next. There’s a lot of science behind the design of a grocery store. They’re not getting more complex because we’ve become savvier grocery shoppers. They’re getting easier so that more people are encouraged to buy more and have a more enjoyable experience.

For some reason, when it comes to the web, lots of people seem to think users are getting savvier and can therefore handle more complicated interactions."    (Continued via rhjr.net)    [Usability Resources]

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