For years, I have been working with computer systems that are used by people. Sometimes I forget that, but then someone like Mike Rathwell reminds me of this fact. Just like Jake Kuramoto reminded me of that fact 12 years ago. It’s all about customer focus, after all.
Mike Rathwell says that users are not stupid
Mike, a former coworker of mine whom I’ve mentioned before, just wrote an article fpr Modus Create entitled “Why ‘Techsplaining’ is a Bad Idea for System Admins.”
Rathwell begins by asking why people administer Atlassian systems (or, frankly, any system).
…the real reason we are around to administer this particular system is because real humans are using this system to do real things. Without humans using this system to do real things, administering it is purely an academic exercise. As such, we are here to ensure that this particular system supports, and continues to support, doing these things.From https://moduscreate.com/blog/system-admin/?utm_content=221412142
Fine, and water is wet. So what?
Perhaps there are those that think that the users of an Atlassian system are required to serve the needs of the system. That’s backwards. The Atlassian system is required to serve the needs of its users.
Even if they do stupid things and ask stupid questions.
Except they don’t.
Rathwell emphasizes that users do NOT ask stupid questions.
Be sure to read the rest of the article, which states that “techsplaining” is a bad idea also.
But I’m going to travel back in time to another instance in which users were called “stupid.”
Jake Kuramoto says that users are not stupid
Perhaps some of you remember this one.
Most of us access social platforms by performing some type of “login” process. Now logins can take many different forms (password, fob, biometric, whatever), but the process is basically the same.
- You go to a place on the Internet.
- You “login.”
- You are now able to access your social platform of choice.
Now some of us intuitively understand how to “go to a place on the Internet” and “login.”
And back in 2010, there was a group of people who had a sure-fire method of doing this. Specifically, they would go to this thing on their computer (they didn’t know what it was called, but it was on the computer), type “facebook login,” click on the link that came up, type in their login and password, and access Facebook.
Now “this thing on their computer” was the Google search page in their web browser of choice. And they would search for “facebook login,” and the first search result would happen to be facebook.com. Once they made it to facebook.com, they would type in their login and password.
This was a method that people had perfected, and it worked 100% of the time.
Until it didn’t.
Here’s Jake’s summary of what happened:
The short version is:
ReadWriteWeb posted “Facebook Wants to Be Your One True Login“.
Google indexed the post.
The post became the top result for the keywords “facebook login”.
People using Google to find their way to Facebook were misdirected to the post.
The comments on the post were littered with unhappy people, unable to login to Facebook.From http://theappslab.com/2010/02/11/these-are-our-users/
(Incidentally, if you go to Kuramoto’s post, you’ll find a link to the ReadWriteWeb article. That link no longer works, primarily because ReadWriteWeb is now ReadWrite. Maybe the spiders sued. The current link as of 2022 is https://readwrite.com/facebook_wants_to_be_your_one_true_login/.)
So what broke down? When a new page became the top search result, people would NOT end up at facebook.com, but would instead end up at a ReadWriteWeb blog post. This blog post did NOT have anywhere to enter your Facebook login and password. So…Facebook is broken!
Now most if not all of the people reading my post right now know that you need to go to the facebook.com URL to log in to Facebook, and that you cannot log in to Facebook via (then) readwriteweb.com. But then again, the people that are reading my post right now actually know what the acronym “URL” means. (If you don’t, it stands for Uniform Resource Locator.)
Now find someone who doesn’t know the difference between a computer monitor and a web browser and explain to that person what a Uniform Resource Locator is.
Now there were two schools of thought on the whole ReadWriteWeb / Facebook login episode.
The one school of thought maintained that anyone who thought that they could login to Facebook via ReadWriteWeb was stupid, and that everybody should know to bookmark the facebook.com URL or type it into their browser rather than searching and running into an unbelievably successful SEO campaign.
But that school assumed that everyone knew what a URL is, or what SEO is. (Search engine optimization. Try explaining that one while you’re explaining Uniform Resource Locator.)
And Jake, despite his technical chops (he was with the Oracle AppsLab when he wrote this post), stated the same thought that Mike Rathwell would echo twelve years later.
I think it’s fair to say that computers shouldn’t make people feel stupid.From http://theappslab.com/2010/02/11/these-are-our-users/
I say that users are not stupid
If you want to get to your favorite social platform, you shouldn’t have to know acronyms like SEO or URL or HTTPS. The only thing that you need to know is the name of the platform you want to access. (Otherwise you’ll end up at MySpace. Or Grindr.)
I’ll take it one step further. If the myriad of systems that make up your computer can’t figure out what you want to do, then it’s the computer and its many systems that are stupid, not you.
Now I just have to take Rathwell’s message to heart and avoid “techsplaining” myself.
And when I write, I need to continuously keep my customers (or, more accurately, my customers’ customers) in mind. I’m writing for them, not for me. Create messages that resonate with them. And if the audience is non-technical, don’t assume that they know what SEO and URL and HTTPS mean.