Just a couple years ago, my parents came back to the US after years of being overseas missionaries. They have been in Siberia, on a random island in the Pacific, etc… and they came back to a world where cell phones were ubiquitous and information was accessible everywhere. My father is now over 70 years old, and he loves gadgets and toys of the electronic variety. However, simple things like programming a new DVD player can elude him – not because he could not do it 15 years ago (I guess that would have been a VCR), but because it really is a bit different.
A couple years ago I bought my parents cell phones and put them on my plan. This way they would have something in the case of an emergency, and of course a way to call me for free without paying long distance. I’ve held off of buying my dad a smart phone though since I wasn’t sure if the whole thing would be a bit daunting. Sure enough he’d love it, but I didn’t think he’d use it to 20% of its capabilities. However, the time has come that I think I can do it. No – it’s not going to be the iPhone, and certainly not an Android (my OS of coice). I think I’m going to get him a WP8 phone. Yep – Microsoft has finally created something that I can give my dad and not even worry about having to teach him how to use it. The thing is marvelous – it works the way it should, it’s totally intuitive, notifications happen in the live tile rather than in some random notification area, etc… This is a phone that my dad will understand, and I don’t even have to give him mor than 30 minutes of training.
I’m reminded about heading to India a few weeks ago where I was coordinating some UAT for a new core HRMS I was helping to implement. I’d stand in front of a group of managers, give them the 5 minute pitch about why we were changing and who the vendor was. Then I’d give them the 3 minute orientation to the product. “Here’s where your ESS is, MSS, reports, and search” basically, and then let them loose with their scenarios and see what happened. Unbelievably (to me) the managers unanimously walked out having figured out the product on their own, and all had great experiences. Of course there was a feedback comment here and there, but all in all, these untrained managers just did their thing and got it right.
All UX should be this easy. Throughout the ERP era, we were so used to overloading the managers with complexity and data that we assumed they wanted. At the end of the day, they really needed something they could understand immediately upon login (the 3 times a year that they actually logged in). And really, they didn’t want data – they wanted insightful information about their workers. The data just turned out to be overload.
I’m pretty pleased about this decision to get my father a smart phone. Not only am I going to get him more connected, but I know he will be really engaged with the tool – the man is going to have fun with it. He’ll have a phone, but now I can text him and know he’ll get it, he will also have easy email, an easy way to send photos to me from his phone, etc. In other words, I’ll have given him a tool that will make him more productive because he can use it. Less really is more.