User Testing for Mobile? Don’t Forget Us Older (Wiser, Cooler) Folks

Not everyone on planet earth is a millennial user.

Last year Google insisted the majority of people on the planet use smart phones. If you dig into the research, this is not true.

Source: Cre8asiteforums Discussion

To my horror, Google completely ignored me and my entire high school class in their mobile usage research. They also excluded your grandparents and iPhones when they ran the study later highlighted in How People Use Mobile Devices as Per Google.

In the real world, of which I’m a participant, smart phones cost a lot of money and are out of the financial reach of many people. Mobile device testing in fantasy, search engine land, leaves out anyone on a fixed income, social security, or whose income doesn’t cover the cost of the fancy mobile devices that come with all the bells and whistles. People with basic bare bones or older cell phones just want the ability to make a phone call. I know this because I watch people and see the devices they own.

There are people who use cell phones specifically designed to just make phone calls and nothing else, and there are mobile devices for phone calls and browsing, but don’t come with a camera, video and music. They can be used for searches and, if you bother to ask them, user experience still matters. As do user habits. Some people will be damned if they’re gonna be talkin’ into a cell phone.

As a usability consultant determined to find user experience nirvana for clients, I’m never asked to perform manual mobile testing on older cell phones. I’m never asked to test mobile devices in real world environments. Testing with only demographic data limits your company’s ability to understand how your users conduct tasks using their mobile devices when they arrive to your website, form or application. Companies need to understand mobile device user experience behavior too. Anyone who has just been handed a mobile device they have never seen before and asked to, “Take a picture of me and then do this thing in my Snapchat,” will tell you that consistency between operating systems and smart phone models would be a gift from the Goddess.

The most passionate conversations I have with prospective clients are those where I make them think about all the people unable to perform tasks on their website from a mobile device and those who simply refuse to.

Your target users may be senior citizens using Win-doze (my Dad’s label, not mine), low income, working people who don’t have time to talk on-that-freaking-thing, or folks who really don’t have any inclination to upgrade their mobile device every 3 months. If your business requirements include targeting a global market, how well do you understand global mobile device usage and trends? What countries lag behind and why? What is it like for someone with a broken hand, learning how to use voice search? Is your site easy to navigate and remember “sense of place”, when the only clue where you are is an icon that you have to click to get to a drop down menu with radio buttons to find where to go next?

Your customers may have the latest and greatest model smart phone, but live in the middle of nowhere and not have access to a signal. I know this because I live near hills and mountains and it’s a popular excuse from my kids as to why they didn’t pick up the call from their mother. I test in the real world so you don’t have to.

“There has been a noticeable rise over the past two years in the percentage of people in the emerging and developing nations surveyed by Pew Research Center who say that they use the internet and own a smartphone. And while people in advanced economies still use the internet more and own more high-tech gadgets, the rest of the emerging world is catching up.”

Smartphone Ownership and Internet Usage Continues to Climb in Emerging Economies

Success online begins by meeting today’s web design standards and putting your users first, if you stop for a few moments to figure out who they are. And WHY they are. Google’s “mobile first” is just the start of something even bigger happening with their algorithms. Quantum algorithms and quantum computing are where the action is. When Google gets to playing with entanglement physics and human users, I want to be there for that.

Because us older folks will not be ignored by any study.