I love digital natives. I believe they are akin to a cultural technology advancement. They are helping usher in a new age of human-centered design, because they demand a more intuitive, human-centered functionality in their technology.
If you have not heard the term before, "digital native" refers to someone who has grown up with technology. This generally includes "millenials" and younger.
Everyone else is some shade of "digital immigrant". I am a digital immigrant. And, like any immigrant, you might be a better or worse "citizen" than a native. That depends upon you.
While reading about Google Workplaces, I came across a the following comment:
Millennials and digital natives bring new expectations to their jobs, conditioned by their daily use of consumer technology. They expect fast, simple tools with no need for manuals or training. [emphasis mine]I see it a little differently - if your consumer tool or application requires a manual or training, you might be doing it wrong. And that is where I see the greatest benefit from our digital natives. They are pushing us to this reality. And it is a good thing.
Are there some cases where a tool or application might have requirements too complex to forego a manual or instructions? Yes. However, in far too many cases, documentation is a crutch for poor design and it can squarely put you in the category of "tl;dr". If you don't know what "tl;dr" means, let me explain.
Across the the web, "tl;dr" is becoming a more well-known quantity. It stands for "too long; didn't read". In fact, in many cases authors will have a section titled "tl;dr" which could just as easily be titled "Executive Summary".
Digital natives are teaching us that many people, if not most, really just need/want that executive summary. It should not be seen as an exception or a deficiency of the user. Rather, your executive summary should be a high quality piece of content that empowers people with the key information, because you should expect that the people that read beyond the summary are the exception.
Embrace Digital Natives
So, if you are gnashing your teeth about the complexity of you customer base now that there are digital natives, I encourage you to embrace them. They will help you arrive at products that are intuitive and easy to use and that is good for everyone.
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