Lessons in User Experience from observing clients

I had the pleasure of presenting some recent work to the client yesterday. It went well but while I watched her navigating around the site, I got a bit of a surprise. It’s been a while since I saw a non-technical person using a computer.

Confused by technology I saw her continuously hammer the arrow keys to scroll because she wasn’t used to the Macbook’s trackpad.

I watched her drag windows around the screen to switch between documents because she’d never heard of alt + tab.

She struggled to position her cursor over a the little plus sign next to an accordion trigger so she could expand one of the FAQs. She didn’t realise that the whole block heading was clickable - and didn’t even try to see if it was.

It was a bit of an eye-opener, really.

As someone who works online all day long, always trying out new productivity tools, apps, hammering out keyboard shortcuts, writing code, and designing creative digital stuff, it’s easy to forget that a lot of people are uncomfortable with technology. We make websites for our clients and their customers but sometimes, I wonder if we’re thinking more about our peers. We want to show off our skills, our knowledge, the latest framework or library.

Sometimes we think about accessibility. If we do, we often think about people using screen readers. Sometimes we consider those that might have to squint to read 14px type. Occasionally we think of the colourblind guy who can’t distinguish link-text from its background.

We forget to optimise for people who aren’t tech savvy, who get frustrated by just using the computer. This is no doubt a much higher proportion of our customers than we’d expect. The only solution is to make websites as clear as possible and user friendly for everyone. A nice challenge, I reckon.

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