Home > Agile, Usability > The scared user

The scared user

We’ve all met them, talked to them, tried soothing them. We’ve ducked their phone calls. I’m talking about the scared computer users. The ones who calls you up directly when they don’t know how to do something with the computer, since “you work with computers”. And you think that well, you don’t know anything about Excel formatting and Word printing just even if you work at the IT department. You just want them to try finding out things themselves and wonder why they can’t google stuff or access the online help.

Morten Nielsen describes an example of Computer anxiety on his blog and David Kramer include on his blog a process diagram for self-help for the group.

As a product owner, I often have a persona matching the person who won’t try an alternative by chance or if she does and things don’t turn out as planned never remember what she did. I give her a name and when we discuss UI I ask the guys about her reaction to the functionality.

“Yes, I know that most users know how to select File—>Print, but what about Berit?”

Another persona I use is the first line support guy. The one who gets to answer these questions at the service desk over and over again. Think about the number of users who will call your first line support about a functionality and what each call costs. Not only in time spent by the service desk but also in the health of the service desk folks. 

“What about David, how many extra calls do you think he will get about this and how is he going to explain this?”

If you’re annoyed by your mother calling YET another time about those columns in Word, think about the service desk getting these calls all the time. And not just from your mother but all those scared moms out there.

Categories: Agile, Usability
  1. Kevin E. Schlabach
    2009/09/05 at 11:53 am

    FYI – the cartoon is from a popular online strip found at xkcd.com It’s great if you are a geek!

  2. 2009/09/05 at 12:53 pm

    Yes, Kevin, the image in the post on my blog linked to http://xkcd.com/ as per the Creative Commons license it was published under. I never steal artwork.

    And because it never fails to entertain.

    • Anna Forss
      2009/09/05 at 5:59 pm

      If you hang around developers, you of course come across xkcd. I don’t subscribe to it myself. Many of the cartoons are a little bit too geeky for me to understand and since my friends now my humor, they tend to send me links when they see one I would appreciate. I do subscribe to OFFLine and Indexed, and I can recommend them to all into software, geeks or not

  3. Sun Sunich
    2009/09/08 at 12:59 pm

    The cartoon is awesome. 🙂 Had a great laugh. Thanks.
    Dodging friends and relatives having ‘computer questions’ is an eternal topic. And there’s no helping it as long as laziness is out there. 🙂

    • Anna Forss
      2009/09/08 at 6:07 pm

      I don’t know if it’s only laziness, as Morten puts it on his blog; there is probably a big part of fright as well. They’ve all been to the first line support asking them what they did before the weird stuff started.

      When I started working as a computer trainer during my college year, I constantly got the question why their work hadn’t been saved. Oh, yes, they’d clicked save alright but what happened was that they were prompted about file name and location. And many were intimidated and felt that the Cancel option seemed the safest one.

      • Sun Sunich
        2009/09/09 at 9:49 am

        One should always have a friend’s phone number to forward ‘computer question’ phone calls to. 🙂 I’d usually forward people to my younger bro. 🙂

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