My father had a birthday in early June. As a long-retired teacher, technology was never a central part of his professional life. In recent years, he’s gotten pretty adept at calling my sister and me if he needs something to be looked up. This year, he decided that his life wouldn’t be complete until he joined people online and started “bogging.”
Imagine this: you barely know how to type, you have macular degeneration (meaning you have a really hard time seeing), you’ve never turned a computer on before, and you’ve never used a mouse. Yet, while my father knows little about computers or how to get around online, he was clued in enough to know about Dragon Naturally Speaking software. His take: if he could talk to the computer and it would type for him, his online experience would be much better.
After some thought, my sister and I decided upon an HP 23″ TouchSmart All-in-One computer. We wanted something like an iPad but bigger. We thought if he could touch it, it would be better than trying to type it. It was a good call. We set the monitor’s DPI at 300% and he can see all the icons, but even with Control+, the back button, home button, and menus remain proportionately too small. (Some add-ons have helped with this.)
For Dragon – it’s great in concept, but not 100% there when it comes to working with and training the software. For example, the training modules use a very small font size; with the screen set at a larger DPI, what’s showing on the screen is something my dad can read, but he can’t scroll to see what else is “on the page.” Either way, we’re finding training to be harder than it should be.
Considering this company is aware that people might have vision problems who use their program (in training, they highlight this fact), why isn’t there a short quiz at the beginning of the set-up wizard asking about what the issues are (e.g., I just want to dictate more than type my emails and letters vs. I’m a slow reader due to dyslexia or nystagmus vs. I have visual issues that make reading and using a computer more difficult for me), and then take them to the type of training program which will work best for them? Part of my frustration is that I don’t know this program, so I can’t teach him.
After a couple of days of training him on things like how to close a program (and what a program is), how to use the mouse (because the touchscreen is great, but the mouse is still helpful), etc., we realized that he would benefit from a program that “talked to him” (e.g., read him web pages). So we bought a program, Natural Reader, which despite installing twice, will not read aloud to him. Customer support is only available via email. They are slow in responding. I’ve tried everything I know how, but I can’t get it to work. So here’s a company that caters to people who want help with reading for one reason or another, and they only offer email support? Clearly their business model got in the way of their customer service model!
Despite all this, my father was upbeat as I left yesterday. After a successful search session, about a topic of interest to him, he said he’d “sensed the nectar of the fruit” the Internet could offer. Hadn’t tasted it yet, mind you, but sensed the possibilities. While he’s never been mechanically inclined, the gleam in his eye reminded me of when he’s learning a new game: he loves games and if he approaches the Internet this way, as a game he can win, the web will be fun and fruitful, vs. frustrating.
Why is this relevant in a general sense? Do you know if you have a special needs target?
- If you’re a restaurant who has a large older population, do you have a large-size print menu?
- If you’re a movie theater, do you have someone who can help seniors to their seats?
- If you’re a shopping mall, is there above-ground parking for people who see less well in low-lighting conditions?
It’s not just about vision; hearing, muscle strength/agility/dexterity, nutritional requirements – you name it, can impact people and, consequently, who your business can attract. We call this “holistic usability.” Maybe it doesn’t matter much now, but as the 76 million Baby Boomers continue to get older, this target segment is going to impact your business more and more.
Take a few minutes to read your customers’ comments, or – better yet – listen to them talk. In conventional research, we’re always talking about what can be done to get consumers to overcome hurdles to buying your brand. What happens if they’re dissatisfied with a category of products/services because no one thought to make one small change? A small change with a big return? That’s a pretty simple formula for increasing market share in these still-hard economic times!