Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Most users aren't stupid. They're just not as savvy as we think. And they shouldn't have to be.

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This is Leo Notenboom with news, commentary and answers to some of the many questions I get at

A colleague recently reminded mind that a frighteningly high percentage of people don't realize that the listings on the right hand side of a Google results page are paid advertisements. While not techie, these are folks whom we would be consider to be relatively computer literate.

This morning I sent email to a contact at an organization I do a little work for that had been sending out Microsoft Word documents with change tracking enabled. Several iterations of changes were visible to anyone who had the appropriate display setting.

Why do I mention these two examples? Because these are not stupid people I'm talking about. These are otherwise intelligent, competent people who simply aren't as savvy about computers and software as we think they are.

And they don't want to be.

In the case of the Word documents, there are liability issues at stake that require that they get a little more educated - but that's the level of impact it requires for many people to realize that there's an issue at all. There's a vast group of people who use computers - but just barely, or just enough to get a job done. They don't want to know more than they need, and they're not interested in playing with their software to find out more.

The result? A vast miss use and under use of the wonderfully powerful tools people have sitting right in front of them.

If there's anything I'll ever start harping on here, it's that people aren't as savvy as we think, and they don't want to be, and they shouldn't have to be.

Forget all the features - we, the computer professionals, need to do a better job of making the basics work, work well, and work in obvious ways. When otherwise smart people don't bother learning to copy and paste because retyping is easier (as I've seen) - we're missing something very, very important.

Have comments? Visit ask leo dot info, and enter 9150 in the go to article number box. Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear from you.

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Article C2420 - September 8, 2005 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

September 10, 2008 1:50 PM

This commentator has it absolutely right. A computer for most people is a tool to get to what they want or need. Keeping things up to date Firewall/Anti -virus/spyware/adthings .. takes time and most are impatient as I am. I do keep the protection up to date but it takes time from what I really want to do.
A pc is just another pencil ........ but sharpening a pencil takes seconds ..... oh well :)

Don Davidson
September 18, 2008 8:17 PM

I agree in full. I have good MBA Can't understand 20% of what I read in my PC World, or when I click on help.Seems like computer folks are intent on keeping millions of users from getting max knowledge and enjoyment from thier machines. About only thing I can usually understand and use are the ask leo articles. Are techies simply not able to bring thier dialogue, instructions, etc down to even decently educated ordinary folk. Do they fail to grasp the frustration of users to say nothing of the marketing implications.

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