UPDATED AUGUST 14, 2023
Growing up in the 70s and 80s
I was born in 1975, which makes me Generation X.
On the day I was born, Harold Wilson was prime minister and the Bay City Rollers were at number one with Bye Bye Baby.
Welcome to the mid 1970s
When I was born, home technology was basic.
We had a colour television with three channels and no remote control, so you had to walk across the room if you wanted to change the channel. My dad’s gram (vinyl record player) was a polished wooden cabinet with gold speakers on the front. And our mustard-coloured rotary phone had been chosen because it matched the yellow swirls in the blue hall carpet.
Growing up in the 1980s
For my generation, new home technology was a thing of wonder. Something that’s improved and evolved with us over the years.
One thing I can say for sure is that it will never be as bad as it was when I was growing up. My generation truly understands how bad a bad user experience can be.
Today’s children will never know how it feels to rewind your favourite song so many times that the cassette tape tightens up and sounds all slurry. It was ‘Clouds Across the Moon’ by the Rah Band, in case you were wondering, and yes, I still listen to it sometimes.
They’ll never know what it’s like to own a home computer where you have to load the games each time from a cassette tape. Or understand the frustration when, 27 minutes into a 30-minute load time, it inexplicably crashes and you have to start all over again.
The arrival of the internet
Today’s children will never know what it’s like to use the internet on a painfully slow dial-up connection and have to wait minutes for a picture to load. Or to be restricted to 10-minute sessions because “every minute is costing us money” and “other people need to use the phone”.
They’ll never understand the pain of using Windows ‘95 with its ridiculous error messages and blue screen of death. How it could crash for no reason at all, losing all your hard work and taking 20 long minutes to reboot.
And, sadly, some may never know how great the internet could be before the ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme culture’ took it over.
What’s the Gimme, Gimme, Gimme culture?
The ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme culture’ is what I call a particularly ugly culture that has crept in over the last few years — and, I have to say, I don’t like it.
Nowadays it seems wherever you go online you’re greeted with an assault of Gimme your attention. Gimme your email address. Gimme your money.
The culture can take different forms and it’s designed to disrupt your experience rather than enhance it.
To give you some examples:
The internet is overrun with advertising. It covers up the articles we’re trying to read, it clogs up our social media feeds and sometimes it just pops up out of nowhere.
You can’t even watch a video without an advert popping up in the middle. These video adverts are mostly terrible. They’re poor quality, they last for all of six seconds and make no impression whatsoever. So what’s the point of them, except to irritate us?
I’ve written about my dislike of pop-ups before.
How they appear in the middle of your screen, asking for your details, before you’ve even had a chance to view the content. And what a faff it is, trying to close them down so you can carry on reading what you came for.
Chatbots have their place, but that shouldn’t be asking me if I need help before I’ve had time to decide if I do. And they certainly shouldn’t be covering half my screen while I’m trying to read the home page.
Sites can still make their chatbot prominent, so I know it’s there if I need it. And they can make it expandable rather than collapsible.
Static action buttons
I’m talking about buttons that stay fixed to the side of the screen while you’re scrolling up and down and intrude all over the content.
These give a terrible user experience and there are plenty of less intrusive places they could go.
I’m glad this stuff makes me grumpy
For a Gen Xer, who has dealt with some of the most frustrating technology ever made, you might think this stuff is nothing.
But the main reason I find it so irritating is because it doesn’t have to be.
I’m glad I don’t accept this as the norm, or see every website visitor as a surfing target, waiting to be exploited.
With just a little more consideration, a website can deliver an excellent, intuitive user experience. And it can work harder to build a relationship with its audience rather than saying ‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme’ like a mugger in a back alley.
Need some help with your website?
I’m Jenny Lucas, a freelance website copywriter who knows how to make websites the best they can be.
If you like my way of thinking when it comes to website user experience, you might be interested to know that this is one of the areas I cover in my comprehensive website audit.