Top 5 tips for teaching new silver surfers

20 Sep

In my day job training seniors to get online a recent volunteers’ Best Practice Day highlighted some insights on what not to presume with new computer learners. Here are 5 of the most common presumptions below:

1. That people know what ‘dot’ means. “Go to w w w dot bbc…” Explaining it’s a full stop is essential before getting started on the internet.

2. That learners know a mouse only works on a surface. A mouse looks a bit like a remote control – that you point at a screen…

3. That learners will know when they type on a computer that it will automatically write in lowercase on the screen (even though it’s printed in capitals on the keyboard).

4. That people will automatically associate symbols they see in real life with ones on a web page. For example a triangle for play or the two bars for pause can be lost in the busy graphics of a webpage. Web designers, if you want this new audience to get your site quickly and easily, then include ‘play’ or ‘pause’ text please. Also if the options only appear when you roll over them can you let us know with a bit of text at the side?

5. That anyone can master double clicking with practice. Wrong. Some people cannot click that quickly, ever. I’m hopeful that with tablets it may become an obsolete function. Until then we’re a fan of the click-once-then-press-enter alternative.

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