I see she’s online. I dial. It rings. She hangs up on me.
I dial again. She picks up. She says, “Hello?” She hangs up on me.
I dial again. She picks up. She says, “Hello?” Her video is not on. I ask, “Can you turn your video on so I can see your pretty face?” She hangs up on me.
I dial again. She picks up. “Hello?” I see the spinning icon; video is on its way. Her face appears. “Don’t click anything!” I yell. She hangs up on me.
It’s not her fault. Skype is not particularly user-friendly, and video Skype even less so. It’s impossible to know if something should be a click or a double click, it’s hard to find your way back if you click off a conversation, and the icons are not readily obvious. They should have an “elderly Skyper” mode with bigger, clearer, friendlier buttons. Actually, that should be regular Skyper mode.
I was discussing this with a friend the other day, who said, “Imagine when we get old, how different all the technology is going to be. We’re going to find it a lot harder than your grandma does.”
This may be true. Even the highly tech-savvy among us have difficulty keeping up these days, and the exponential explosion of choice isn’t helping. Should I even be using Skype to communicate? Or would I be better off with Google Chat, Facebook Messenger, Viber, or WhatsApp? I’m not unwilling to learn new things -- it's one of my favorite things to do -- but there comes a point where learning each of these communications channels begins to feel fruitless, and I want to either stick with what I’ve got or give up altogether.
But I have hope. I have hope because I look at two-year-olds on iPads, and I see how obvious the technology is to them. I have hope because the drive is toward ever-more-intuitive interfaces. Our continually diminishing attention spans give us less and less patience with non-obvious commands, so tech providers compete to make the experience more and more user-friendly. The less friction in the system, the greater the conversions -- a virtuous cycle for consumers who just want our lives to be made easier.
Thank goodness. I pride myself on being as close to a Digital Native as possible for someone my age. And yet I can see how easy it would be for my own niece and nephew to look at me the way I look at my grandma, to have a secret giggle about how their favorite auntie is adorably clueless when it comes to answering a Skype call.
So that’s my plea to all you UX designers out there: Don’t let me look clueless. Make my old age easy, and make your interfaces as intuitive for 80-year-olds as they are for 2-year-olds. We’ll all be grateful for it.