Remember the Users

A chasm exists between free/libre software developers and most users. I am referring to the 80% bell curve user. Not the tech savvy. Not the users who are not the most tech savvy yet still courageously dip their toes into the free/libre software world.

Who is that user? A descriptive generality.

At one side of the traditional bell curve are 10% of the people who are willing computer users. This general grouping varies widely in computer skills. Members of this group include the geeks and developers. This group includes the tentative computer user — the person who is willing to wade knee deep into the waters of computers. Some of these people might one day become a subject matter expert or developer — or they might not. Regardless, they are not afraid of technology and are willing to tinker to some degree.

The opposite 10% are people who never will be technically savvy, regardless of any efforts by them or others. They never will “grok” computers in any shape or form. They can be taught to perform nominal tasks. They will memorize those steps. Deviate from that memorization pattern and they are baffled. They rarely will be able to resolve computer problems and they rarely will try. They are, jokingly, people who never should be allowed near a computer.

The remaining number of people are the 80% bell curve users. They are not technically savvy but they can be taught to use computers in productive ways. They are not interested in learning much about computers beyond their own immediate needs. Many are smart and intelligent. They are interested in other topics and endeavors, just not computers. They tend to use whatever they buy and seldom question anything about the design as long as they achieve their perceived purpose. They possess the potential to learn computers in depth, but they don’t because that is not a priority to them to find contentment in life. Because computers are not a priority for them, because computers are complex tools, they are unwilling to tinker if something is not easy to use. Because most of these users are familiar with at least the basics of Windows and smart phones, they have no use for terminals or becoming geeks. They are not going to dig much deeper that a few mouse clicks to achieve their goals.

Beyond Facebook and Amazon many of these users have little grasp of the world wide web or wider internet. Their computer knowledge is so small that compared to a free/libre developer that knowledge seems non existent. These are people who never change the desktop background because they do not know they can. Yes, most of these people use Windows or some kind of Android tablet.

Linux based systems might seem ready for tech savvy users and those users who wade into the Linux world, but is not ready for the 80% bell curve user.

There are die-hards who prefer that Linux never caters to the 80% bell curve. They seem to revel in the idea that Linux is supposed to be “challenging.”

I disagree. I want Linux to be usable by the 80% bell curve user.

How to improve Linux for these 80% bell curve users? That is what I explore here in this little corner of the world.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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