The Grandparents Went Mobile

“My friends have an iPad, I’m going to get one this weekend.”

“My friends have an iPhone, I’m going to send my nephew to get me one this weekend.”

Those are the sentences I heard from my 80ish year-old grandmother over the past year. She’s from South Korea and survived the Korean and Vietnam wars. She’s, to this day, very smart and can list off your birthday, phone number and her doctor’s address with little thought. Give her a math problem and she’s whip the answer right back at you.

My grandfather was, in general, an engineer. He had his HVAC and plumbing master licenses and might as well of had his electrical master license. He not only owned a HVAC and plumbing supply shop on the North side of Omaha but also a computer shop that specialized in AutoCAD. His home office is a library of floppy disks and DVDs of every software you’d never use. He helped fund and setup a high school’s technology program and computerized building HVAC systems he owned on using those green terminal screens and 1200-baud modems. This was all after he retired from the Navy and civil Engineering.

But as he also hit his 80’s, now being 90, his desktops and laptops started to see the dust slowly covering them. Software and hardware started to evolve quicker than he had interest in anymore. Now his day’s consist of watching black and white western TV series.

My grandmother, on the other hand, found that should could no longer ask her husband to search the Internet for information, send emails and print off legal documents. She never really learned how to operate a Windows machine because her husband liked doing that for her so much. It was his “thing”.

Then came the iPad. She found that she could send emails, fill out online forms and do research on the Internet using this ultra portable 10″ screen. It didn’t require a cord to use; no keyboard; no mouse. It was very basic. She could push email or Safari icons and they would just work. She could even wireless print. She no longer needed her “complicated” laptop to do much of anything except write legal documents and fill in financial spreadsheets. It was perfect for her.

She now has an iPhone and loves using it to make phone calls or even send a SMS here and there. Likely because of the “bling” and “peer” factors. So then I showed her maps, camera and photos. It was exactly what she wanted. So simple.

So what’s the point of this blog post? User experience.

She uses these devices because they are not overly complicated, even though you could make them as such if you wanted to.

But let’s take a step further.

The doctor’s office has online forms to fill out. She tried filling them out using her iPad but the doctor’s office told her they didn’t receive the information they needed. She was frustrated… and I can see why.

I came over and started filling out the forms on her iPad. Even though the site worked on the iPad, it was defiantly a desktop-centric site. The form labels were hard to read as they took up multiple lines and ran into each other. The form fields were small. It was almost impossible to exit the date picker widget after I selected the date. And there were form fields that I had no idea where to get that information, yet they were required.

In today’s world if you are creating a public website you should highly consider creating a mobile-first responsive site. Take this experience. My 80ish year-old grandmother and her peers use iPads and iPhones. Not laptops and desktops. Even on a podcast the other day, the speaker was saying the funny looks his son gives him when he tries to show him his desktop setup. He’s just always on a mobile device.

In reality, I use my mobile phone for looking up quick stuff like what a medication does or the address for a auto-repair shop. I don’t own a tablet, outside of a dedicated one for my dart board. I use my work desktop and home laptop for all the “real work”.

So in conclusion, when building or maintaining a public facing website, it’s very important to be mobile friendly and responsive to serve your experience to the many generations and different devices. If you don’t they’ll just go somewhere else, or worse, call you because you’re their only option and can’t use the site you’ve invested so much money in.

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