Digital natives vs. Digital dinosaurs – a reflection on UX

Sometimes you get really surprised about what well known and well thought off companies get away with in their marketing material and this has prompted this short post – slightly off topic from I normally write about. I was really surprised and also appalled when I came across the following sentence in when reading some material from one of the biggest document management companies around. I quote:

“One of our highest priorities is serving the New User – the digital natives who are bringing yet another revolution to information technology. The New User wants to determine when, where, and how to interact with content and information – and on what device. The New User wants simple but powerful user experiences, tailored precisely to the needs, with all of the gears working quietly in the background.”

OK. On the surface this sounds all well and good but what if you turned a statement like this upside down? Let’s try….

Enter the Old User – The digital dinosaur – he has been working the same way for the last 20 years yet he has survived and continues to do so today. He comes to work from 9 to 5 every day – also something he has done for 20 years. He has one place and one way to interact with content and ONLY on his trusted PC. The Old User prefers complex user experiences where everybody sees the exact same information whether they need it or not and every single sub process is visible so that he knows exactly what’s happening every step of the way.

Does this guy exist – of course! He has been around for a long time and remembers when you had to work with IT systems not use IT systems to get work done. What I find particularly troubling is that some software companies still cater to the old paradigms and some times even reinforces the idea that everything was better in the good old days. In my opinion this is sad. Not that everything new is great – far from it – but if the new version is designed for the “New User” logic suggests that every version prior to that was designed for the “Old User”.

I would like nothing more than to say that this is not the case, but sadly I find it hard to do. Partly because I have seen too many systems where the focus is on the “Administrator Experience” and not the User Experience and partly because the fact that you have to use the notion of the “New user” makes me truly concerned about the product and as a potential customer I would start questioning whether this company who probably prides themselves of their innovative approach to everything is that innovative after all.

I’m happy that we are moving in a more user friendly direction but every time a software vendor takes the “digital natives” hostage – verbally that is – to justify an improvement the user experience or to introduce “social”, an incredibly cute kitten dies. They’re missing the point! The “user experience” should be the starting point for everything……. or did I miss something here?


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