Dread family visits each Holiday?

Yes, you love your family. But you loathe being the family’s IT guy. To Mom and Dad you’re Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy.

But I have a new challenge.

Next time you get that Holiday Help Call don’t feign ignorance.

Try this instead: Accept the role of the Family IT guy and use this as an opportunity to view the user experience from a completely new viewpoint.

Googling “Google” on Bing

First things first! Required pre-reading for each visit to Grandpa’s should include Lifehacker’s annual guide to fixing your relative’s computers. Don’t step through that TSA checkpoint without it.

When Mom asks for help booting up her 8 year old Windows 2000 machine to fix her AOL account you’ll be well equipped.

To that, here are some of my favorites this year:

1. The “I’ve installed too many toolbars” virus

Grandma: I have a virus on my computer. Can you find it for me?
Me: Are you sure that’s a virus or just one of the 14 IE7 toolbar extensions you have installed?

2. The “It might be time to upgrade” indicator

Me: Turning on Dad’s computer to backup his files.
Me: 2 hours later…Windows login screen finally loads.
Me: 4 hours later…”Dad, how important are these files?”

3. The “Windows might have missed the mark with Metro” fix

My Wife: “Did you know one of our execs had IT change his Windows 7 UI to look like XP?”

4. “Let Me Google That For You.” Really, please just let me do it.

Me: “Dad, let’s Google how to do that in Windows 8”
Dad: Types “Google” into the MSN page search box
Dad: Clicks Google from list of results on Bing search
Dad: Begins typing actual search

Always Build Your Product With YOUR Customer In Mind

Unless your customers spend their Christmas mornings catching up on Hacker News posts, my relatives are no different than your customers.

Someone who uses Bing to get to Google COULD be your customer!

So next time your tempted to run away when Aunt Madge asks you to help her plug the Wi-Fis back into her internet, think about what you can learn instead:

  • Let your relative drive – What UI controls do the use and notice? More importantly, which ones don’t they use (that might be second nature to you)?
  • Note the browsers, homepages, and programs that they use and are familiar with – Does your app need to run well in IE7?
  • Understand the limitations of their hardware – Can your app run well on a 1GB Ram Win XP machine?
  • Consider how well they adapt to change – Will they prefer a menu based system that’s uglier, but more familiar?

As for myself, I’m oddly looking forward to the next Support Ticket that comes in from my parents.