As a millennial, the child of two babyboomers and vivid smartphone/laptop/console user, naturally I must have knowledge about technology to some extend. Right? Many times have I been called to fix some tech problem from a distance by my family. No mom, I do not know what is wrong with the internet, have you tried turning it off and back on? Is my generation really as tech-savvy as commonly perceived?

We are the millennials, a generation distinguishing itself by its extensive knowledge and use of technology. A lot has been said already about the millennials. In this post I won’t be talking about our disgust of the traditional corporate job, but that this group will be the most important consumer group and the access to services instead of ownership. The generation born between 1980 and 2000 have completely different habits than the previous generation X.

If you ask someone what the most distinctive factor is of this generation is, you often hear the phrase “their use of technology”. The millennial-generation is the first generation to grow up with platforms like Youtube, Facebook and the Appstore. Use of technology is no longer optional for us, but a prerequisite for our daily life.

“I’d rather lose my finger than my mobile phone” -Huffington post

Tech is positioned central in the User Experience

Companies use today’s technology to perform a lot of customer interactions. Customer experience is defined as the sum of all the experiences the customer has during the whole interaction between customer and company, including awareness, discovery, purchase, use and service. Technology plays an important part in this experience. In a research by Forrester, 73% of the subjects stated that they see technology as an important part of the customer experience.

With such an important part to play, one would expect companies design their technology to interact with its customer base as well as possible, to develop technology that perfectly meets the requirements of its users, solves the problem quickly and accurately, and should be able to be used simply and intuitively. Unfortunately, technology is no longer designed with that vision in mind. Compare the use of an average website and the use of the Uber application and you understand what I mean.

The biggest misconception

When the subject of usability is discussed, you often hear the phrase: “Our users are tech-savvy millennials who work with technology so much, they will naturally understand how to use the app. They understand even before we do.” Recent research however claimed this is not the case at all.

“Millennials are tech-dependent, not tech savvy” performed a questionnaire to measure the “tech-savviness” of millennials in the United States. A few levels have been defined, scaling from 0 to 4. Level 2 is the minimum for professional skills. People under level 2 cannot even solve a small problem without using a couple of applications, for example localizing a certain piece of information on a spreadsheet, or sorting emails in a certain folder.

The results may not be representative for other places in the world, but should be eye-opening for anyone working in the tech sector. 19% of the millennials is under level 1, 58% is under level 2.

That’s very swell, you may think, but what does this mean?

User friendliness as priority #1

Instead of lowering our expectations with regards to user friendliness of technology, we should raise them, because more and more we find ourselves in situations in which we are completely dependent on technology. But it has to be understandable in 3 seconds, even if we aren’t tech savvy.

Testing user experience apart from functionality

Too often still tests are ran on a functional level. “It works” is the definition of “The functionality is working according to a certain standard”. A lot more attention should go to user experience tests, in which we look if the user understands the functionality truly and properly.

A bigger role for designers in the process

Technological development is too often dominated by programmers: the bits and bytes that ensure certain features are implemented. Design is often subject to certain restrictions coming from the backend or cms. Design is now placed as design pur sang, like color choices and iconography, but for the real user experience design is often limited. About time technological development becomes design driven, instead of design on the side.

Content driven development.

As it is, interfaces still make use of wireframes, or layout. A few sign-offs are done and the development process can continue. But the content on the page has a large impact on the user experience. Try putting Lorem Ipsum next to the Nike logo instead of Just Do It.

Our society becomes more and more dependent on technology. The challenge is to make technology that billions of people use with one blink of an eye, and have a beautiful experience while using it. Let’s not assume become smarter by using technology, but let the technology work for us. Unused technology is a waste of energy, waste of opportunity and a waste of my mothers calling minutes.

By Jan Biert, innovator and millennial at ktc agency

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