Overcoming Fear of Hal

Not everyone has access
to a toddler consultant

Nothing comes between kids and tech. Not even a broken arm.

In the 1970s, banks tended to limit marketing themthar newfangled ATMs to people around 30 years old and younger, aka Boomers. The reasoning was that interfacing with not just a machine but a computer (!) would intimidate if not terrify anyone much older than that.

They weren’t wrong. Back then, all that most people knew about computers was that they might turn out to be Hal. Cross one, and it might eject you into space. (For the benefit of young ’uns, that’s a reference to the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a classic that pretty well ushered in modern sci-fi cinema and is worth seeing.)

If I have the arithmetic right, those 30 and under in the 1970s are 75 and under today. Technology doesn’t terrify them—the digital revolution happened around them—but mastering the latest technology is another matter. While a few boomers keep up with the toys, most keep up only to a point.

As for boomers’ kids, they aren’t kids anymore. They’re adults, and they have careers, own homes, buy cars—and still play video games. They and the digital age grew up together. Innovation is something they take in stride. They have small children of their own to whom technology is second nature. It’s not unusual to see a toddler trying hard to be patient while showing a senior how to use a feature on a smartphone or tablet.

That last point is worth pondering. Those of us who make our living unleashing technology on an unsuspecting world need to exercise empathy for those coming to it cold. The older those coming to it cold happen to be, the more empathy we’ll need to exercise.

The takeaway is that apps must be designed so that anyone, not just those fluent in the latest technology, can tell at a glance how to use them.

Otherwise, you may unwittingly limit your market to families who happen to have a toddler in the home whom they can consult.

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