Tuesday, March 31, 2009

End users are not stupid....

I read a great post today thanks to Larissa Reynolds, a good friend down in the great state of Texas. The post was written on http://cuhype.com and entitled "Hello, Our members are Morons". The author identified only as "Tony" was discussing how when he would pitch a Credit Union (his marketing specialty area) on a new marketing idea they'd frequently shoot it down saying that their members "wouldn't get it". He went on to explain why this was really a fallacy, and that with the right message and the right delivery you can hook a lot of people you wouldn't just assume would get it. Management's assumption seemed to be that it was ok for THEM but that their MEMBERS wouldn't get it, understand it, or be able to do it. This sort of belies the fact that most of THEM are members of their own credit union :)

I was reminded of a particular phrase that I usually use with my entrepreneurs when they come to me with their ideas. Take Knowledge Athletes for instance. They come to me with a great educational idea and I have said more times than once "you guys are the education experts - I'm just the software developer". If they think it's a great idea - it's worth a try.

Which is not to say I don't push back sometimes for a simpler interface. It's my job to advise people on the best way to implement their idea so that it can be enjoyed by the widest audience. But we must always be careful not to dumb something down to the point of no returns. It's ok for our users to have a brain - and to need it to accomplish a task.

We were pleasantly suprised for instance how quickly kids were able to pick up the Kajour application and run with it - sometimes despite bugs and growing pains caused by it only being a demo system. We found we could make the interface much more complicated than we originally anticipated and it would still work great for the kids. They were USED to figuring out complex interfaces. They'd grown up in the world of Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and other tools and didn't mind poking around in menus or selecting icons until they could figure out what they needed.

So the all around summary - don't assume your users can't use a sophisticated interface. Don't underestimate their ability to "get it".