UX Divide

The “Digital divide” is still a huge problem but nowadays we’re facing another problem. This problem renders a lot of users unable to profit from modern technologies. I’d like to call it “UX divide”.

The idea of this text came when my 1.5 year old smartphone broke. It was quite modern, but the next mid-range model came with the latest Android OS and several improvements provided by a vendor.

To be honest, I’m not a news-freak. My approach is rather utilitarian. I’m not excited with the latest bells and whistles, however I adapt to new solutions quite early.

But instead of excitement the unboxing process caused only one feeling: fatigue. I sighed heavily because I knew there would come a moment when I would have to start learning. Again.

New interactions, new icons, new ways of unlocking, dragging, getting access to options. New symbols that are not clear enough and require me to “experience” them at least few times to learn what they mean.

A few years ago, Microsoft Office was an example of bad, unclear and overloaded design. Although the icons were tiny, at least when you made some effort and used a magnifying glass, you could see the difference. It still required learning, but somehow it was easier.

Now, if you login to your gmail account, you can see several almost identical arrows and each one means something different. On Facebook and Twitter, some of the symbols look virtually the same and yet mean completely different things.

On many modern and what can be considered well-designed websites, you can find “hamburgers”, “dots” and other types of up-to-date and fancy menus that interact indifferent way and mean different things.

What’s more, major UI “improvements” sometimes appear with each software or website release. The amount of time that we waste learning all of these new meanings and interactions is overwhelming.

I’m in my early 30s and it didn’t take me long to adapt to all these improvements. As always, within a few hours my habits had changed. It happens every month. With every release of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Android etc.

It’s tiring, but I’m able to learn. However, I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of someone older or less accustomed to these constant changes. Let’s be clear: modern technologies and modern design make life easier… but only the lives of a small, well educated and determined group of users.

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