My wife is, for all intents and purposes, internet illiterate.
Until recently, her knowledge of the internet didn’t extend far beyond Facebook, Amazon, and Googling recipes. Don’t get me wrong, she’s way smarter than I am, but she is… less than technically savvy. So I was surprised when she brought up the idea of starting a blog. This is a person that has absolutely zero experience with publishing content online. And she wanted to blog. Which is awesome.
Five minutes after hearing her idea, I procured a domain name, snagged a Twitter account, and set up WordPress. After some quick changes to the stock Twenty Fourteen theme, the Basic Mom Blog was born.
Teaching Someone to Blog
All that setup was fine, but a blog isn’t a blog until someone posts. I showed my wife how to log in and where to post, but we immediately ran into a few challenges. Those challenges all boiled down to experience, expectations, and communication. Here’s my experience with blogging:
- I have an idea for a post.
- I log into my CMS, write said post, and upload whatever pictures I want to use.
- I hit publish.
I’ve been doing this for awhile. I naively expected my wife to be able to jump right in and do exactly what I normally do. Here’s what actually goes into blogging, from the standpoint of someone less experienced:
- Have an idea for a post.
- Log into WordPress. Navigate to the new post page.
- Fill out a title, write the post.
- Upload pictures for post. Wait, how do you upload a picture? Oh, I mean add media.
- Um, what do all these settings do after it’s uploaded?
- Insert image in post. That doesn’t look right. It needs to be cropped. Edit photo in WP. This interface sucks.
- Preview post. Edit photo. Preview post. Edit photo.
- Rinse. Repeat.
- Add categories and tags.
- Publish post.
I quickly found myself frustrated trying to walk her through the steps. Less because of her lack of experience and more due to my inability to communicate clearly since it’s been years since I was in her position. We finally got that first post up (and the second, third, and even a parody video). Since then, she’s been killing it. Fewer questions, more confident about getting things done in WordPress. It’s been amazing to watch.
But it really got me thinking about some of the assumptions I make when it comes to technology, the internet, and the expectations we all make as designers.
At what point do the assumptions we make as designers work against the users whose lives we’re supposed to be improving?
Living so much of my life online, I take a lot for granted. Working in email, with some of the brightest minds in the business, I likely take even more for granted. I make assumptions about what people already know, or wrongly equate my experiences with everyone else’s. This is dangerous ground, since most of my work involves educating others about email design.
I can’t expect everyone to know what I know. I can’t expect everyone to understand the basics of web or email design. I can’t expect my wife to know the ins-and-outs of WordPress on day one.
I think it’s important for me, and most people, to try to remove their experiences and expectations from the equation–especially when it comes to teaching others. Try to remember what it was like learning things for the first time, not knowing HTML from a BLT. Look at things from the eyes of a newbie and teach appropriately.
Oh, and encourage a beginner to keep growing–go follow my wife on Twitter.