You’re Not Old. The Technology is Just Bad.

“I must just be too old to understand this new stuff,” you say in resigned frustration as you fail to conquer some new technology.

You’re not too old. It just doesn’t make sense.

Not being able to understand a piece of technology should be as anachronistic as a telegraph or a monochrome cathode ray tube monitor. User interface and user experience (UI/UX) are so well studied and understood that technology which can make the gadget do what you want before you even tell it to is available right off the shelf.

So why do we think that we are “not good with technology?”

Because so much technology is really poorly made, then the tech industry tricks us into believing that the technology is good and the user is to blame.

Humans still rule the Earth, at least for now. Until the robot revolution finally overthrows us, the technology should serve us.

Whether it’s the poorly placed knobs on the gas stove in my house that nearly lit my wife on fire as we installed our new microwave or Facebook’s tendency to move buttons under your finger on the touchscreen as it loads, the fault for this failure lies squarely with the designers of technology who do not take into account the way that humans interact with that technology.

Zoom was able to dominate the video chat market when the pandemic began because they had a better user experience. They created a simple platform which worked seamlessly. Most people aren’t even aware that they ever installed Zoom onto their computers. It’s just there.

You would be forgiven for thinking that Zoom was preinstalled on your computer. It wasn’t, although Skype, with a 13 year lead in the space, and owned by Microsoft was. That’s right. If you have Windows 10, Skype was preinstalled with your operating system, yet most people found Zoom easier to use.

Unfortunately, too many technology makers get away with making terrible user interfaces. 

Sometimes it is because they don’t have to fix the bugs because their service is so indispensable that people will use it anyway, like Facebook. 

Sometimes the frustration is something that you can’t find out about until you buy the product, like the atrocious infotainment interface on the 2016 Honda Civic.

But too often it is because companies trick customers into blaming themselves.

“I guess I’m just not good at technology,” the customer says.

“No, you’re fine. The technology is just garbage,” I often explain.

This is more than an inconvenience. This failure of technology companies can lead to users failing to properly secure computers and other technology against cyber threats. It can lead to lost productivity due to misuse of technology.

The most insidious effect of this design negligence is on our own sense of self. As we age, rather than feeling wiser and smarter and comfortable, the ever changing technology (some of which changes for no better reason than for the sake of change itself) leaves us feeling old and helpless.

People who are educated and accomplished will warp their own self image and sacrifice their confidence to justify the shoddy work of incompetent technology designers.

While some people are legitimately bad at technology, always keep in mind the possibility that you’re perfectly good with technology but the technology you are struggling with is just garbage.

Michael Whitehouse is a motivational speaker, coach, and amateur technology critic. By critic we mean that he swears at bad technology fairly often.

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