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Q&A

Is it okay to call the reader's target audience stupid?

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I'm a tech genre author, and have already published one book on Android development. However, this book was focused more on the developer of the apps, than the user.

Now I'm working on my second book, which is on app UI. In this book, there is a lot of focus on the usability of the apps, making it as easy as possible for the end user to accomplish the task.

Among developers, you can frequently find statements in casual chats saying stuff like users are stupid, if your software is idiot proof, a better idiot will be its user etc, all basically saying that users do not think the way we do, and what might be blindingly obvious to us, is not so obvious to them.

I'm asking if it's acceptable to say things like the following in a proper printed book:

Users are stupid/dumb/something. You need to position your UI elements in such a way that it is impossible to miss, and make its function so clear that even the dumbest user cannot fail to understand it.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/q/6377. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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I sympathize with the sentiment, but no, you can't use "black humor" and "shop talk" in a book like that. Such comments have to be kept in-house and preferably not written down. We all complain about horrible clients and idiots at the DMV and so on, but you shouldn't actually codify that into written advice.

Users as a group are too diverse to call them all stupid. Any one of your users is expert in something which you as a designer/programmer won't understand, and the user could call you "stupid" for not grasping something which seems "obvious" in his/her field.

Your goal is to make the end result easy for any user, no matter the technical background, to understand. That does require a lot of work on your part (and the part of your readers). If you object to the idea that part of your job is to make things easier for someone else, you should change jobs.

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I don't think calling users as a general group stupid is appropriate in a development book. It would be appropriate in places where developers or customer-service reps vent to each other and try to top each other's "who's had to help the biggest idiot?" stories.

It's also not really relevant to the point you're making. Users might have any number of reasons for not noticing a feature that the developer thinks is obvious: they're in a hurry to finish a task, they have visual problems the developer didn't account for, they're not familiar with standard symbols or conventions, etc. Making things clear will help all those groups of people, whether they're smart or dumb.

Another problem with "Users are dumb" is that it can breed an attitude of resentment and condescension, rather than the idea that your job is to help the user accomplish a task or do something fun.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/6384. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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There's a problem here: Saying something like, "users are stupid," makes you look ignorant.

As other have said, the fault isn't always with the user; sometimes, a product is poorly designed. And, even though some users will search frantically for the "ANY" key, many other users are proficient, not dumb.

I realize you mean the statement tongue-in-cheek, but you risk coming across as shallow if you state it in such simplistic terms.

I'd recommend:

You need to position your UI elements in such a way that it is impossible to miss, and make its function so clear that even the most novice users won't fail to understand it.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/6383. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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It's completely your decision, and the decision you make will help contribute to your writing style (which is why some writers are successful and some are not). So, therefore, you're asking for an opinion on writing styles and what decision we would make.

Mine is that you don't resort to this approach of establishing a light-hearted way of making the point that software should be developed with simplicity in mind. It's almost insulting and certainly shows a lack of imagination.

Also take into consideration the fact that, one day, you may choose to go down the avenue of writing for users of apps - I'd imagine it's not a good business move to unnecessarily call potential customers idiots.

Look at the reaction in this thread - that should be enough of an indication that calling users 'dumb' and 'idiots' can annoy people.

By you asking this initial question - it's almost as if you want to take this approach - in which case, I don't like your writing style at all and would think of it as less articulate than most successful technical evangelists.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/6397. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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No, it's not okay. Why not simply give your advice as something to make an app great because its visual appeal and intuitiveness make it easy to use? As someone with some recent experience in an HCI/UI design group, as well as lifelong experience as a user of technology, I think it is the developer's job to make a great UI so the user can spend less time navigating and more time doing. People should be used to seamless design as the expected norm, not just something done to humor them.

I'd also like to point out that things "blindingly obvious" to a developer are only so because they made the thing; it might not be so obvious to another developer unfamiliar with the code. Think of UI design as retail; the customer is always right. :)

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/6382. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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I would say that yes, it is acceptable. Obviously it's an oversimplification, and the average user of any particular Android app will be approximately as intelligent as the average human being. However, if you don't feel that you need to go into the rationale behind Don't Make Me Think simple design philosophies, then you may find "users are stupid" to be an effective shorthand.

I highly doubt you will cause much offence to your readers with such shorthands, though some may find them unconvincing.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/6381. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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Please write in whatever style is necessary to get the information across in a memorable way.

Please write in a way that makes the reader actually smarter, even if it makes you sound a little silly rather "intelligent" or "professional". ( a, b )

Some of my favorite authors occasionally call users "stupid" ( c ).

My users generally are pre-occupied with something else, or are stressed by time pressures, or have not yet learned or have forgotten what I think are some of the niftiest parts of my application.

It's quite all right to remind me that every user has occasional mental glitches, and it's my responsibility to make sure such momentary awkwardness doesn't lead to something horrible, like erasing a hard drive or leaking a credit-card number to the bad guys.

It's also quite all right to remind me that all humans can keep only a finite number of things in their heads at any one time, so I need to design a system that works even when my users are unable to give it their full attention.

On the other hand, if you tell me I can blame the mistakes my users make entirely on those users, and it's OK to do nothing to help them, you are doing them and me a disservice.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/6404. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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