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No prejudice against inexperienced users - 09/05/2007

Mr. Rui, a 55 year old businessman, is a partner of a company with ten employees; he visits clients, manages the team’s work, uses e-mail and accesses the internet to read news and research the price of materials that his company needs. He admits that sometimes he goes onto his online bank account, just to check the balance and the spending. He does not make payments or invest his money, preferring to go to an agency to do these things.

“I don’t pay bills or invest my money over the web because I find it too complicated. I have tried but I never really know how to do it. I have to keep looking for things and I get messages that I don’t really understand, so I leave them to the side. In the end I get annoyed and I waste a lot of time. It is easier to go to an agency, even considering that you have to wait a bit, at least I don’t get worried because the bank clerk does what needs to be done”, explains Mr. Rui.

Maybe you know someone like Mr. Rui. Maybe you think that older people are scared, lazy...stupid? Many people encounter difficulties in using electronic devices, mobile phones, cash machines and web sites, and they still think that it is their own fault, because they are old, or because they are inexperienced, or lack ability, or the knack…

Those who create and develop web sites and products, sometimes, believe that older people, or those with a lower level of education will not attempt to use their designs and so, they do not consider them as being part of their target audience. Others think that the user, if he/she really wants to use the web site or product, will eventually learn how, because he/she wants the convenience, or because he/she is loyal to the brand, etc. and those users who cannot learn are the ones who are truly stupid.

Users are not stupid

Firstly, users are not stupid. There are more experienced, younger or better educated users and there are those less experienced, older or less educated. It does not matter, they are all consumers and they do not want to encounter difficulties, whatever, or whoever, the brand or provider is. Products and services should be easy to use and easy to learn for all users.

Secondly, Brazilian consumers have become more demanding in the last few years and have learnt to demand their rights. They are also learning not to be scared or embarrassed to complain about things which are hard to use.

Note the increase of advertisements highlighting the ease of use of a product or service, associating words such as “simple” and “easy” to the brand. When users complain, companies react.

Most importantly: in some companies the focus is on improving the user experience and the usability and this is not just an advert, it is reality. These companies have no more doubts that involving users in the creation of products and services has a guaranteed return, both financially and for the corporate image.

Make the user part of the process

The first step is to discover who the users are: what do they want, what do they need, what is their situation, how do they live, who do they relate with, what are they missing? Questions like these can be answered using research and ethnographic studies.

An ethnographic study, still not well known in Brazil, consists basically of observing users in their day to day routine, their daily leisure activities. From this it is possible to find opportunities for innovation and potential market niches- coming out ahead of the competition. This type of study also allows understanding of how the complexity of human behavior affects the interaction of users and machines, providing elements to improve the quality of this interaction.

From the beginning and during the creation and development process, usability should be evaluated using heuristic analysis (evaluation by a usability specialist) and tests with users. The earlier interaction problems are found, the easier, faster and cheaper it is to fix them. It is better to release a product or web site that has been adjusted to suit users’ needs, that to listen to complaints (and feel the losses) caused by the difficulties encountered after the product is already on the market.

If people like Mr. Rui had been observed, heard and invited to test banking web sites during the creation process, operations, such as paying bills or investing money could be easier for everyone, from the lay to the experienced person.

It is always good to remember that over the next few years, people with Mr. Rui’s profile, as well as those with lower incomes, will make up more of Brazil’s internet user base, as they have more and more access to the internet.

It is not only users who win. The companies also win. How many people stop going to bank agencies each day that it becomes easier to pay bills and invest money online? The bank can reduce the number and size of its agencies and still get more clients, due to the quality of services on their web site.

Mercedes Sanchez
Director of Mercedes Sanchez Usabilidade

Translated from an article published on Webinsider

See also

The way to provide effective international user experience is doing local user research studies, with local users.

Global studies

What users say

"Here, on this site, you know right away that you're not going to waste time looking for basic things just like what happened with the other site. I prefer this one, for sure."

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