Setting up a PC for my Mum!
She picked it up this weekend and it was quite an experience! To date I have worked mainly with IT professionals and super users, I haven’t really any experience of working with people who have spent all of their lives without touching personal computing, here are a few things I learned:
- Mum wasn’t at all interested in all the things I had set up for her, she already had a lot to take in at the level of how to flip up the screen, switch the laptop on, login and shutdown. It turns out that all this is actually pretty complicated for her with all the options that the user interface presents and after she explained it from her perspective I could see why.
- Basic things threw her, like seeing a big “shutdown the computer” button on the welcome page where she logs in and less obvious instructions related to actually using the computer.
- she was similarly confused by the idea of clicking Start, then picking “Turn off the computer”, and then even more confused by the fact that after picking “Turn off the computer” she was presented with a dialog offering “standby”, “turn off” and “restart” – hadn’t she just picked “turn off”? and what the heck do restart and stand by mean? (there’s no help)
- She was very confused by the idea of running multiple applications at the same time
- She was amazed at the idea that she could edit text that she had entered into word without deleting it all and typing it again
- of course the list goes on!
After about half an hour of discussion it became clear that the course she was on had not introduced her to personal computing at all. When she arrived the PC was already up and running with Word 2003 started. All interactions with XP were via the File Open and Save dialogs, she had no concept of login, shutdown, start etc.
My first experience of personal computing was an Amstrad Word Processor and it struck me after a few minutes that this was what she really needed right now, an appliance. You should have seen her face when I opened up Windows Media player, I thought she would be pleased with the idea of having her music all there, but no, she was terrified.
At the same time it was wonderful to see her true amazement and excitement at the potential she was glimpsing. Word 2003 for her was truly amazing, she was thrilled by simple things that the fact that text reflowed as she made changes, or indented it for example.
For the first time I really understood what a challenge Microsoft have when designing a product like Vista that needs to be usable by me and my Mum! And I think I will be a lot more forgiving of some of the decisions that they have taken to simplify the experience and choose defaults that never really made sense to me before!