I must share this story with you. It’s a tale of two generations, two personae, the best of times, the worst of times. Perhaps two of your users?
Meet my son. He just turned 5 last week, and as far as I know he can’t really read yet. Maybe a few words, but not much. He walks around and animates his world as if he’s Calvin in the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon book. Everything he touches is an obstacle directly in the path of a supersonic vehicle that he, or his imagined miniature character, is flying through the air. The sound effects are great. Most parents will understand when I say that he asks the most incredible questions. My favorites include: “What’s holding up the floor, daddy?”, “Where does our strength come from?”, and “Why do we have spit?” He seeks to understand how things work, and why they work the way they do.
Now meet my wife. She’s a brilliant musician, a tremendous organizer, and can usually remember where I put just about anything, though she resents doing it. Other husbands may relate. Last night, she mocked me as I was talking to my brother on the phone line while simultaneously trying to get a video chat working with him … why would I spend 15 minutes debugging the chat, when I could just talk with him on the phone? When it comes to technology, she generally doubts the value, and will reluctantly adopt something if it is extremely useful to her.
Today I came back to the home office from a Lunch 2.0 meeting at Codesta, and before sitting down at my desk, checked in with my two personae … my 5 year old son and my wife. Looking at her screen, I saw that she was bringing up the “Live Radio” stream on her favorite classical music station. We talked for 5 minutes or so, and just as I was about to get back to work, the music came on.
“Oh,” said my wife, “finally the music came on. I think the internet is slow or something.”
Then we realized, my son’s hand was on the mouse.
“I clicked ‘Play’, mommy.”
Play, indeed. I’m not sure why the player required her to click play, but it was such a delicious moment.
After that, I found out that my son also knows the names of both browsers (Safari and Firefox), and can tell which one is running. He doesn’t know how to log himself into Webkinz yet, but in a few days he will.
If you’re designing software, which one of these users is most like yours? Where are the “Play” buttons that shouldn’t have to be pushed?
PS: In case you’re wondering, my wife gave me permission to blog about this … 🙂