A little over three weeks ago when I happened to be in Barcelona, my friend Professor Carlos Scolari snagged me for a guest appearance in one of his classes. I hadn’t done an “unlecture” before — being technically on holiday and it being a last-minute arrangement — I came armed with my brain and not much else. I spoke to a small roomful of 20-22 year-old students in Advertising and Public Relations. They were already well acquainted with knowledge of usability, accessibility and social media — I was very impressed.
We talked a little about web standards, user testing methods, how branding intersects with user experience goals, and discussed examples of sites that had well-designed (or badly designed) information architecture and content. Everyone was a Facebook user, and they would prefer to have things advertised or referred directly to them through Facebook or Tuenti. And no, they don’t watch television anymore, unless it’s on their laptops.
It reminded me of some research done by Solutions Research Group that I have seen quoted (but not directly available online), presented at NEXTMedia Toronto last year. While this research referred to the US/Canada market, it is interesting, though perhaps not surprising, to note that Millenials in Spain have similar characteristics. Because the idea of “destinations” on the web no longer quite exists in the same way in their mindset, they wonder why there’s any point in building more brand-contextual/niche social networks that are in competition to where they spend their time — Facebook and similar networks. I find this very fascinating. I don’t think this means we should build everything over Facebook Connect, but it’s hard to see an alternative model.
At that juncture, the class and I discussed about how technology moves fast, and with it, many user habits change, that different generations exhibit different levels of comfort with technology and different usage patterns. With this broad scope, it really does comes down to answering the question: who are you designing for?
There wasn’t time to go into detail about profiling users, but we identified iRobot as a company that’s getting things right, targeting “people who don’t have time to clean”, and “people with pets”. A few of the students actually had Roombas. Again, I was impressed.