In March I celebrated another birthday
It wasn’t a milestone, but it has two too many fours in it for my liking.
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 you had to walk across the room to change. 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 has 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.
They will 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 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 five minutes for a picture to load. Or to be restricted to 10-minute sessions because “every minute you’re on it is costing us money” and “other people need to use the phone”.
They will 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.
For starters, there are much better and less intrusive ways to get your GDPR consent.
People tell me the ‘join our mailing list’ pop-ups work, but I still don’t understand why. What makes a business think a first-time visitor would sign up for marketing emails before they’ve even seen their content or what their website is about?
I’m a firm believer that a pop-up should appear as you’re leaving a site rather than as you arrive.
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 a 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 a freelance creative copywriter on a mission 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.
You can find out more about my website audit service in the services section of my website.