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Exhuminator
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The Distribution of Users’ Computer Skills

by Exhuminator Tue Dec 06, 2016 3:03 pm

I just finished reading this article from last November:

https://www.nngroup.com/articles/computer-skill-levels/

I don't even know where to begin, howabout:

"Can’t Use Computers = 26% of Adult Population" <--in 2016?!

When I think of advanced computer skills, I think of someone writing custom firmware, or hacking a BIOS, or programming a robotic assembly line with PLC. This article defines advanced computer skills as: “You want to know what percentage of the emails sent by John Smith last month were about sustainability.” And says only 5% of the population can do something that simple?

Granted I might have a big bias here, given I work in IT. But considering how computerized the world is today, I'm having a hard time believing this article can be accurate. What do you think?
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Re: The Distribution of Users’ Computer Skills

by MrPopo Tue Dec 06, 2016 3:08 pm

I think it's helpful to divide computer skills like you might divide driving skills. A NASCAR driver might have no idea how to tweak the engine, but his driving proficiency is much higher than the average joe. What you see as advanced computer skill is more like someone who knows how to tinker with the engine of his car.
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Re: The Distribution of Users’ Computer Skills

by Exhuminator Tue Dec 06, 2016 3:23 pm

Yes, but the article is defining computer skills far below what you or I would consider high, no matter how we might define the tiers. And yet it still says the populace is far below even that small standard. I have a hard time believing these statistics, but maybe I'm just biased.
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Re: The Distribution of Users’ Computer Skills

by MrPopo Tue Dec 06, 2016 3:33 pm

When I did my stint in Microsoft I was on a user experience team; specifically the modern settings app. Do not underestimate the depths of human incompetence.
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Re: The Distribution of Users’ Computer Skills

by isiolia Tue Dec 06, 2016 3:47 pm

Exhuminator wrote:Granted I might have a big bias here, given I work in IT. But considering how computerized the world is today, I'm having a hard time believing this article can be accurate. What do you think?


Well, the fact that it's an article presented by a consulting company makes me a little skeptical. Arguably, part of the point of the article is to leave you feeling like you need help designing systems that the average user can understand. :lol:

That said, I don't think it's necessarily inaccurate, but I do think it's incomplete. There's a very big difference between what someone might happen to know offhand, and what they could learn to do if and when it becomes relevant to them. It's making very broad assumptions on computer literacy based on 15 tasks on "simulated" software. The far more important thing is to learn how to find out how to do a task, and be inclined to try, instead of giving up immediately.

Basically this.
Image

I'm sure there are plenty of people out there that legitimately have barely touched a computer, and would be pretty lost if just sat in front of them. I also think the same thing is true about plenty of other tasks, including stuff that those people might be able to do without giving it a second thought that other people might struggle with. Or even computer related tasks - I've seen plenty of "not computer people" know the particular program they need to use for work inside and out...though I've also had people routinely want someone from IT to come help them turn a TV on. :roll:

Essentially, I think most people are perfectly capable of picking up those "computer skills", provided they aren't giving up before they even try. Maybe that's giving people too much credit, I dunno. Doesn't seem like many people are struggling with cell phones, and maybe it's due to not approaching them as something impossible.

That said, graphic/UI/etc designers and engineers should still strive for better usability too.
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Re: The Distribution of Users’ Computer Skills

by Exhuminator Tue Dec 06, 2016 4:05 pm

isiolia wrote:That said, graphic/UI/etc designers and engineers should still strive for better usability too.

In an engineering office I used to work in, this was framed on the wall of one of my coworkers:

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I thought it was fitting he had put that there, because his HMIs were trash.
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Re: The Distribution of Users’ Computer Skills

by Sarge Tue Dec 06, 2016 4:11 pm

Both of those are priceless.

I can totally buy it, and I think isiolia has it right: if someone has an actual need to learn to do something, then they will do it. Until then, they generally don't devote the mental bandwidth to it. Much of the older populace, in particular, does things in a particular way, and the prevalence of computers is a huge change in how they operate. So if they don't need it, they don't do it.

As an engineer, I can confirm that I totally suck at designing user interfaces.
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Re: The Distribution of Users’ Computer Skills

by casterofdreams Tue Dec 06, 2016 4:52 pm

Makes sense that 26% can't use a computer.

There is a high proportion of older individuals (baby boomers for example, people living longer) in the population. That set of people aren't or wouldn't really be open to learning computers.
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Re: The Distribution of Users’ Computer Skills

by MrPopo Tue Dec 06, 2016 5:10 pm

The worst thing? When someone is trying to explain to me what they're doing, but using the words they have come up with internally to describe what they're doing and looking at instead of the standard words.
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Re: The Distribution of Users’ Computer Skills

by marurun Tue Dec 06, 2016 5:43 pm

I get frustrated when people talk about "digital natives," trying to make the case that kids are somehow inherently tech savvy. Not so. They memorize most of what they use tech for same as everyone else. So they memorize what they grow up with but can't use older stuff any better, and can't use anything complex any better.

They still think Google is a reliable source.
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