There are people walking around in this day and age who are absolutely clueless. They could not tell you what a browser is if you threatened them with surgical removal of their WiFi. And if you said the surgery would happen in an operating system, it would make more sense to them than asking them what operating system they prefer. And if you asked them to describe the difference between DSL and WiFi and FIOS and dialup and 3G, they would look at you quizzically, as if you asked them to differentiate between water and H2O.
I recently listened to a person present a new software platform. To explain how easy it is to use, he used a computer as a metaphor. His images that were meant to clarify further confused people who don’t understand how their computer works or what a browser is.
And then I realized that I don’t have a good metaphor for what a browser is, either. As a person who avoids Internet Explorer like the plague, I can’t bring myself to mention it as an example. But if I say “Firefox”, that doesn’t help with people who connect to the Internet, not with a browser, but with a picture on the screen that says, “connect to Internet.”
I also know that I can’t simply explain the difference between dialup and DSL. Yet. (Though I’m working with garden hoses and PVC and M&Ms. I promise.)
I could rant. But it would be both futile and foolish. Really, apart from geek-cred, does the picture really need to say anything more than “connect to Internet?”
In a month, I’m talking about social media to a group of people who have been hearing that they need to know about it but who know little about it. In fact, I’m willing to bet that they don’t know what a browser is.
My goal will be to help them understand starting from where they are.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
And, by the way, I am fully aware that you (yes, you), can’t explain a browser in normal-people-speak either.
When we’re done here, you will.