5 Huge Misconceptions About Your "Average User"

Forget social media management apps. How many people know how to search text on a web page? And how many people still need computers with DVD drives?

Despite the pandemic proliferation of "Share this" buttons and smartphone apps with little "send this out" arrows, 82 percent of all web content sharing happens by simple copy-and-paste. This might sound surprising to you, but only because you haven’t seen what else is in the web’s eye-opening We’re Not Quite Ready Dept.

For the smartphone-toting, Chrome-browsing, two-finger-right-clicking set, so many aspects of modern computer work have become easily assumed skills. It's high time we took a step back from the "App Economy" and futuristic indicators to see what second-nature technology knowledge isn't quite mainstream, to the great chagrin of every software developer and support desk worker out there.

90 percent of browser users don’t use Control+F to find words

Why do publishers bother with a table of contents and index for ebooks? Why create section headers for longer web texts? Daniel Russell, search anthropologist at Google, will tell you why.

Out of at least 2,512 U.S. internet users he had worked with in 2010, 90 percent did not know how to "Find" words on a web page, by pressing Control+F/Command+F or otherwise. In 2011, Brennan restated that percentage to The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal. Suffice to say, a massive cultural movement toward understanding and utilizing keyboard shortcuts for data-seeking purposes wasn’t a national priority in 2012, and 2013 isn’t looking so great, either.

Many app reviews make no sense at all

Ever read a film review, look back at the star or letter grade the critic assigned the film, and wonder if something got switched in editing? That’s what it’s like for 70 percent of the reviews in Apple’s App Store, according to one recent study.

Russian app maker and analyzer Empatika performed a sentiment analysis on some half a million posted reviews in the App Store, for representative apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Google’s new YouTube app. They found that 52 percent posted only positive reviews, 43 percent wrote both positive and negative reviews, and only 5 percent went entirely negative. So Apple kept rogue hate-sprayers out of their Store, but they also prevent developers without alternate feedback and survey tools from seeing what’s really going on with their product.

TechCrunch provides one example: an app described as "completely unusable" in a review, but given a five-star rating. You’ll see other apps with "On the one hand … on the other" caveats, which cry out for a 2-4-star rating, but stuck along the one-or-five spectrum. And nearly every app maker and content maker asks their fans these days to review them in the App Store. Don’t always trust the vox populi for the veritas on what makes for a good app.

Much of the U.S. isn’t fast enough for "the cloud"

You know, deep in your shame center, that affordable broadband has not overcome the last mile problem. You gather that not everybody is enjoying 10 megabits per second downloads and 1 megabit ups, and that you’re a bit silly to be envious of your FiOS-having friends. Still, you think, speed is a relative concern.

And then you look at a map of average download speeds across the U.S., or a map of where broadband is available. The "average" speed is 616 kilobytes per second? Now, think a bit more about what the term "average" really means, look at the map numbers again, and realize why Netflix, Spotify, and Dropbox haven’t quite taken over the country like you think they might have by now. GigaOm’s "State of Broadband in the U.S." tells more of the cloud-grounding tale.

Nearly half of mobile ad clicks are fraud or mistakes

Some apps and websites, and especially games, forgo upfront pricing in favor of placing mobile ads across the content. Sounds like how the web got started, right? Except for the fact that merchants and ad buyers have come to realize so many of those clicks come from the wrong side of your thumb, or sometimes deception.

In total, German app marketing firm Trademob found this past summer that, out of 6 million mobile ad clicks, 18 percent were fraud, 10 percent were "hidden" and deceptive ads, and 22 percent were accidental. Leaving tricky clicks aside, 61 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds click mobile ads more often by accident than on purpose, according to a Pontiflex/Harris Interactive survey in early 2011.

The follow-through to purchase on accidental clicks is rather low. And the idea that mobile ads can keep everything free on our phones isn’t looking so insightful.

People, even geek people, still use CDs and DVDs

Windows 8, Mac OS X Mountain Lion, press kits—most files that are bigger than email attachments tend to arrive as either remote downloads or give-away flash drives these days. But it’s not a bad idea to keep a pack of DVD-Rs around your home and office, just in case.

An informal poll of 2,000 readers at Lifehacker shows that close to 81 percent of readers actively use CDs, DVDs, or both, and/or wouldn’t buy a computer without a disc-reading drive. And this is Lifehacker’s readership we’re talking about. The kinds of readers keen to build their own gray-market "Hackintosh," set up personal web servers with $20 hardware kits—and yet they find discs to still be useful, and even necessary.

[Image: Flickr user Mike Chaput]

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  • Wil Fry

    "and yet they find discs to still be useful, and even necessary."

    I think they're necessary. What are we supposed to be using instead? (The article didn't mention it.)

    "Much of the U.S. isn’t fast enough for “the cloud” "

    Many of are *fast enough* but don't like the idea of it. Sure, I store some files online so I can get to them from other computers, but the originals (and the primary backups) are in safe locations that I control.

  • Jibberjabber

    tech people live in tech bubbles. step outside for a few months, preferably for a year, and you'll see that average users don't really care about technology because they're too busy living in the real world.

  • Paul Muzi

    "Average users" frequently don't care about technology because they never bothered to learn the appropriate skills and are proud of wallowing in ignorance. These are the same persons who, in school, proudly bragged about how little they studied and then acted shocked when their "efforts" resulted in failing grades.

    You don't need to be a "tech person" to understand and appreciate the basics of information technology, especially when it's something as simple as utilizing a flash drive to move a large file, instead of trying (and failing) to send it through email.

  • SMV

    This is called in rational ignorance. Yes people could spend more time learning, but the options for what to focus on are almost limitless. So people have to pick.

    This article indicates most do not pick Tech.

  • ohgodkillmenow

    What senseless rumination. Most people are fucking retards and shouldn't be allowed to breathe post-millennium air for their lack of ability to make positive contributions to society.

  • LB

    And you don't have t be a blogger to know that suggesting a flash drive to move a large file to another user in another country 10,000 miles away (or anywhere where your aren't and have no intention of being) is just not a clear understanding of the basics of helpfulness technology.

  • JrQS .

    Those "Average users" are my friends, Paul. I can tell you it's not they never bothered to learn the skills, it's that said skill doesn't interest them. It's like wondering why a basketball player can't throw a curve ball. They really don't care to learn how to throw a curve ball because they really don't care to or said skill is not targeted towards them. With that being said, I think you should feel grateful that you have been blessed with enough cognitive ability to find interest in school and modern teaching methods.