A few jobs ago, I was helping someone with a small tech issue, standing over their shoulder at their computer. The screen was unbelievably dark; I’m not exaggerating when I say it looked to be near 0% brightness.
For all I knew, this person had some vision sensitivity or just a basic personal preference that caused them to set it like this, but just in case, I cautiously asked, “By the way, I noticed your screen seems dark; do you prefer it like that, or would you like it to be brighter?”
“I guess it is kind of dark,” they said. I tried some of the buttons on the side of the monitor and found that it had been set to like 5 or 10% brightness. I turned it up to 50% or whatever and they were shocked at how much more easily they were able to see things on it.
It had just never occurred to them that it could be better.
Just today, a friend approached me with their phone looking for help. “This thing pops up every couple seconds asking for my email password, but it’s for an old work account and I don’t have the password anymore.” I took the phone, and sure enough, a modal dialog appeared every couple seconds asking for a password. “It really does this every couple seconds whenever you’re using your phone?” “Yeah.” “And what do you do?” “I hit ‘Cancel.'”
When viewing the account in settings, all the options were grayed out, even the option to delete it, because it had been created by a “configuration profile.” (Notably Apple’s support site has a document for installing a configuration profile, but not for deleting one.) To remove the account it was necessary to remove the profile, after which the account and intermittent dialog disappeared.
“How long had you been living like that?” I asked. “About a month.”
I’m in no way making light of these people knowing less than me about technology. They’re smart people who just didn’t spend their teenage years installing RAM and hard drives in their basement.
I bring it up because what it indicates to me is that technology sucks, and most people don’t expect technology to be any better than completely sucky.
If my screen were at 5% brightness, or if I couldn’t use my phone without hitting “Cancel” every five seconds, I’d spend hours or days on Google trying to find a solution if that’s what it took. That these people mostly just lived with it means that these problems couldn’t have been markedly worse than technology has already been for them historically.
It’s why malware so easily installs itself; most people just want dialog boxes to go the fuck away, and they will click “OK” to anything because it’s usually the most efficient way to do that.
These are design problems, not user problems. I hate thinking that in 2020 we still live in a world where most people continue to hate technology because the experience has been so hostile to them their whole lives.