What my mum taught me about the Internet

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  • Post last modified:January 23, 2011
  • Post category:Business / Thoughts

As a thoroughbred nerd I have dabbled in robotics, web design, industrial design, phone phreaking, hacking cracking, viruses, internet dating, search engine optimization, net scraping, ad nauseum.

With that said, I’d be a fool to not have realized that generally the best knowledge comes from those who have little or nothing to do with the Industry. As a web designer/developer I get so caught up in the details of websites it’s sometimes difficult to step-back and think to myself, “how does this look to someone who doesn’t scour the net viewing websites source code?”

Enter my mum. Bless her heart, the Internet is a whirlwind of change and difficulty — she does her best to keep up. While she has a way to go before she becomes a professional web designer, she often provides a perfect use-case scenario to test ideas and concepts.

Just because you think it’s simple, does not make it so

Mum case study #1: My mum lands on my good friend Aaron Firestein‘s website (which you should check out if you’re interested in art shoes that don’t look like art shoes). She loves what she’s seen and wants to share the page on Facebook. Easy enough right? Wrong. There was no Facebook Share, or Like button so she gave up and left. She didn’t know that Facebook can take URLs, or didn’t know that she could Copy & Paste the URL, or perhaps something infinitely more basic! The point is that what you and I think is common knowledge doesn’t mean it is (as I’m sure you know, common knowledge often lacks commonality)

Pretty good, is often enough

I notice many intricacies that most users won’t. Because of this, it’s important to think about the other businesses in the industry. What’re they doing? Can we do it? Can we do it better? If not, can we do it differently or easier so that customers still benefit from the same needs?

When setting up my Mum’s website we installed WordPress so she could start blogging, and off she went while I mocked up designs. In the end we decided to go with a WordPress template because she didn’t know what she wanted, or what she wanted to see. It was frustrating at the time but looking back taught me a good lesson: If you don’t know what you want, don’t try and get it. (AKA: The KISS rule, or Baby Steps, or “Slow and Steady Wins the Race”) Here we are a year later and she’s still happy with her default WordPress template, has kept up her blog posting, and her customers know where to find her.

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