Why you need people to use you

In this age where anyone can shape the web, we have a shortage of ‘normal people’. Here’s why it matters.

Have you ever seen the words "Subscribe to my RSS" in blogs and such?

You have?


What do you think, hun? Do you really want to subscribe to my RSS? Want to de-neutralize my car’s ABS? Want to hyperbolize the MMS and be my BFF too?

Talk to me, baby.

More often than not, when well informed robot savants who create websites go about, you know, creating websites, they talk like well informed robot savants who, well, create websites. And they want normal people to “get it”.

Sadly, normal people who use their websites don’t get it.

Happily, the best minds in the world see this as an opportunity.

Think: Why do people use one search engine over another? Or use one web application, social network, or email client over another?

Amongst different reasons, “Because it is easy to use” is one big one.

More people are realizing the need to make the web more usable by normal people. Not just in the interface, but in the choice of words. These best minds in the world will help brands communicate in the web, help presidents win elections by organizing the masses, and help any business get the edge in the age of the internet.

So why then are so many websites so difficult to use?

The worldwide shortage of normal people

Yes, my fiends, we have a shortage of normal people. It’s true!

Why? Because they turned into mutant people!

People tend to start off normal. Then, they decided to learn the language of the web, learn marketing, learn programming, and “learn” all this esoteric knowledge which converts them into mutant people.

They forget who they were: Normal people.

Or worse, normal people pay mutant people loads of money to do stuff they don’t understand. I see this all the time. Big brand pays ad agency who pays interactive agency who pays IT mutant graduate to ‘make a website’ and you end up with a 20MB Flash game which requires you to have a degree in aeronautics to meander. “WHOA THIS IS USER ENGAGEMENT HOLLA!” they holler.

Do we holla back, girl?

Don’t. Don’t feed the web with unusable junk. It’s cluttered as it is.

We expect marketers to know this, but they have not forcefully applied their consumer-centric thinking to web environments. This is still evident today, as new web applications, social networks, ‘websites’ and tools flood the market.

Will normal people return to save us from the de-humanization of web communication?

The ‘easy to use’ revolution

More interactive agencies, web designers, and programmers are getting on the human language, user experience design, and usability patterns bandwagon. Programmers, designers, and copywriters are getting in the loop. It’s been a hot trend for a few years now, I know, but it has not hit mainstream.

But it will.

Soon, companies will only want to hire these hybrid-mutant-normal-people, not super-mutants. Businesses which use hybrid-mutant-normal-workforce will get more customers consuming their stuff because it is ‘the most easy to use’.

What can normal people and mutants do about it?
  • Become a usability expert on top of your current profession. Whether you’re a marketer, copywriter, programmer, or designer, learn it, and shout about it for instant career-differentiation. It isn’t hard to learn, just go on Delicious or Diigo or Google and look for ‘usability’ and ‘ux’.
  • Use “Hallway Usability Testing”: Not just for websites, but ad campaigns too. Just get any random person from the hallway to use your web application, blog theme, Flash game, TVC etc and watch them fumble to grasp it. Experts say you avert 95% of usability problems with this alone.
  • Buy a copy of “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug for starters. The philosophies behind the book will change you back to normal again.
  • The next time you say ‘I need a website’: Remember, you want something normal people can use. And if you insist on being unique in how you want your audience to use your website, you might as well sell cars which forces people to use their hips to steer the wheel.

Being unique and new in your ideas and communication is powerful.

But forcing people to adopt new and unique ways of engaging with you costs normal people time and attention, which they might not have enough of.

Afterthoughts on RSS

Let’s wrap this up with a simple, practical example. The answer to my initial question which started it all. What is a more humanized way to get you to ‘Subscribe to my RSS’?

If you want to know what RSS is and what use it has, get this: RSS describes a way your blog posts (or any information) is output so other devices can read it. Like, say, when you want to know when someone’s new blog post is out, you can subscribe to their RSS with a RSS reader…OK Forget what I said. It’s mutant talk.

See this instead. (Can’t wait to get this in my upcoming re-design of my 3 year old blog) It’s one of the better examples of I’ve seen so far…


It’s taken from this original article from “Website magazine”.

So forget “Subscribe to my RSS”, just speak like a human! It’s a small step to getting more users to listen, and big step at humanizing the web, one experience at a time.

Cute “Don’t feed the dog” photo by jakobinac

2 comments on “Why you need people to use you

  1. TianChad May 25, 2009 1:31 am

    People getting more complicated these years ;p

  2. Jia Ling May 31, 2009 7:15 pm

    Thanks. Makes me feel better for not knowing what the heck RSS was. I’m normal dammit.

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