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2015 Survey results

Several weeks ago I asked you to complete a brief survey. The primary question was:

“What’s the biggest challenge you face using technology effectively?”

As always, I was overwhelmed by your response. Thank you for participating.

I want to share with you some of what I learned.

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Top Five Topics

Change

I shared this a couple of weeks ago, but by close to a two-to-one margin over the next most-mentioned topic, change is by far your biggest challenge.

Be it the pace of change, what you perceive as unnecessary change, or just change that you can’t quite get your head around, our fast-paced ever-changing technology represents a common, and significant, challenge.

Documentation

The lack of traditional documentation with almost any system or software package was a common complaint. Similarly, the relative incomprehensibility of what documentation is available was a close runner up.

I’m very grateful for everyone who commented that Ask Leo! is a source of more clear, understandable information.

Complexity

It’s ironic in many ways, but while many software and hardware manufacturers are trying to make things simpler, the next most common theme was the complexity of systems and software. Not only the complexity of individual applications and machines, but also the complexity of attempting to get various technologies to work together in some kind of useful way.

Security

Honestly, I expected this to rank higher, but it’s still significant. Security – be it machine security, cloud security, fears of being hacked, or fear of data loss and privacy intrusion, remains a significant concern.

Stability

Things break too often. Things that should work together don’t. Updates are scary because they might cause things to stop working. Neither hardware and software are as robust or problem-free as we would like.

Other topics

Other topics appeared to varying degrees:

  • Backing up
  • Privacy
  • Terminology
  • Internet availability and broadband
  • Networking
  • Fear: both of breaking things, and the fear of missing out on something
  • Time and money
  • …and much more.

Demographics

I asked a couple of demographic questions to get a better idea of exactly who you are. 🙂

The results surprised me a little.

60% over 65. You may feel alone, but you are most definitely not. Close to two-thirds of the folks responding to the survey identified as over 65.

I’m honored to be a resource for you.

80% male. This surprised me more, since it feels like I hear more questions from women. Maybe it’s due to the same reason as the stereotype that women are more willing to ask for directions.

What happens next

So, great, I ask these questions …then what?

My hope and plan is to try to target some of the areas of concern. I’m already trying to get my head around “change”, as you may have seen in one of my recent videos. It’s clearly a hot topic.

Some of the responses affirm what I’m trying to do already: provide understandable answers in plain English. It’s not always easy (and by all means, call me on it if I get too geeky), but it seems to be something I can do that people appreciate.

I thank you again for your input. I’ll do my best to honor your responses in what I come up with in the future.

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29 comments on “2015 Survey results”

  1. While I didn’t respond to the survey, I’m not surprised by the results, especially about documentation. Some software (and hardware) manufacturers used to provide some incredibly clear, readable, and understandable (not to be too redundant again and again) user guides. I kept the best of the bunch, those for WordStar 2000, WordPerfect (I hated WordPerfect, but my wife’s office used it, so it had to be on one of our home computers), and Ventura Publisher.

    These were manuals that explained things step by step. While they were only in hard copy, they were so well organized and indexed that you didn’t need a search function to find what you needed. And they didn’t assume you knew all of the technical jargon. Today’s electronic software and hardware manuals assume you are an expert on computers and need search functions because they are so poorly organized.

    And don’t get me started on all the manufacturers who provide “manuals” only online. Do they really hate their customers that much that they can’t produce a manual in PDF?

    I think this all reflects the insane “maximize profit” motive and callous disregard for customers that has taken over the private sector.

  2. Many years back, I was at an Open University Summer School (UK), and going in to the then Computer Terminal Room early each day, when it was quiet.

    I noted a lady doing similar, seemingly working away intensively at the various assignments.

    On the second-last morning, she came over to me; and asked for assistance.

    Almost incredibly, she had not learned how to log on!

    Neither during that residential week; nor for three months part-time study at home.

    So I showed her simply how to Log On and Log Off initially, nothing else to confuse or distract her.

    She then practised this about half-a-dozen times, gaining some confidence.

    Next was explaining the Directory Listing, simlar to looking along the shelves in a library to see what was there.

    So her practice loop becam -Log On, DIR, Log Off, another half-dozen times.

    Now the BIG STEP, PROGRAMMING in BASIC ….

    Showed her how to open a New File to write a program in.

    Explained the need for Line Numbers.

    10 PRINT “This is my FIRST Program”

    Run

    Half-a-dozen times.

    Next was Looping

    10 FOR X = 1 TO 10
    20 PRINT X, “Another Line”
    30 END

    And so on, including Conditionals, Jumps etc.

    At the end of 20 minutes or so, she reckoned that she had learned more than enough, to now develop further on her own, to tackle some of the assignments.

    Interestingly, she was a Mathematics Teacher.

    ————–

    I prefer to write instruction manuals at a very simple level, even key-stroke by key-stroke, as it avoids or reduces the chances of anyone claiming that it is “too difficult” to understand.

    Yet often when I have asked if a complainant if he/she has followed these detailed instructions, the answer frequently has been “No”.

    The old story. You’ll never satisfy everyone.

  3. So I’m not the only one who complains about ”change for the sake of change”. Well last week my computer died – fortunately I had just backed everything up half an hour earlier. The whole works had to be renewed, hard drive, everything, because the man, quite surprisingly, couldn’t find what cause of the problem was. It took him 3 days to return the computer. It appears to have been a mechanical fault. Anyway, I now have a whole new replacement Windows XP from my original disc – fortunately I kept that in a safe place where it didn’t get totally buried or lost over the years.
    It has taken me about three more days to get all the settings back to how I like them, and still things are not quite as they were. Some of my programmes (Cool Edit Pro, Photoshop, Hijack This) and the floppy drive couldn’t be replaced. (I’ve found and downloaded Hijack This again, but that took several attempts.) I had to phone B.T. to get e-mails back working again because the password was set many years ago (and later altered) so that I couldn’t imagine what it was. I now get a ”Downloads” folder keep appearing in a toolbar – I’ve tried deleting it but that doesn’t last long. I was just about to Ask Leo when this new newsletter came. How appropriate, that change should be the top topic.
    I once bought a record player, it played records perfectly. My wife bought an old car, it goes fine. So far these things are not encumbered by computers. About 17 years ago I bought a Windows 3.1 computer – wonderful!! UNTIL people started changing it from outside – I’ve never invited them in but they get in just the same. Creepy!

    • p.s. The fault wasn’t with the original hard drive. Maybe a capacitor or something.
      (Another p.s. He also altered my screen resolution which is an IMPROVEMENT!!)

  4. Re Change: I don’t mind updates. What I do not like are new/improved versions of programs that become almost mandatory after a few years. Every time Microsoft introduces a new version of Office, it claims it has more features. For whom? I use Excel almost every day. I probably use less than 5% of its features (not unlike my brain). I don’t need more features. The change that brought the ribbon, with no choice, drove me crazy. Finally, by chance, I learned that I could create my own custom ribbon. Now I like it, but feel as though I aged five years in the meantime. I often need to enter a bunch of dates that were in previous years. What about a “feature” that makes it possible to change the default year for a series of entries? The best the Microsoft forums could do was a formula, a macro, or a suggestion to change the system date!! I have the same problems with Acrobat and Quickbooks. Entirely new versions with changes for the most sophisticated users designing aircraft carriers are meaningless to me. (I suspect I am not the only one.) I feel like I am seeing the squirrely evolution of the auto industry all over again, but with less choice.
    Thanks Leo. You are a voice of sanity.

    • “I use Excel almost every day. I probably use less than 5% of its features (not unlike my brain).” – Haha! Yeah, I’m in a similar position and use only a small fraction of Office’s capabilities.

      “Every time Microsoft introduces a new version of Office, it claims it has more features. For whom?” – Realistically, companies need to push out new versions of products in order to keep their revenues steady, even if those new versions don’t include much in the way of new functionality. I suspect this is why Microsoft and companies like Adobe are switching to subscription based models. People will happily pay a small amount every year for a subscription, but feel cheated if they pay a larger lump sum for an upgrade that doesn’t really provide much in the way of new and useful functionality.

      “What about a โ€œfeatureโ€ that makes it possible to change the default year for a series of entries?” – You can use a macro to achieve this.

  5. 80 % are males in your survey of demographics. Could it be that females tend to try to look up informational resources available online?
    Thank you for your timely and very informative articles. You have taught me a lot since I started to subscribe to ask leo.com.
    Nina
    74 years young.

    • You know, I’m not sure. I was tempted to say something about the stereotype that it’s only women who are willing to ask for directions. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Is it time to download Windows 10? I am running Windows 7 on my desktop and Vista on my laptop. I would prefer to try it out on my Vista version of Windows because it’s not my main computer and it would give me a chance to test it out. But can I actually upgrade from Vista to Windows 10? Thanks Leo.

  7. Re: Ann Huffman, I installed windows 10 on a machine that was originally Vista then updated to windows 7. After doing that the computer would not start windows. Something to do with the USB ports and the mouse I was using which would not work either.. Had an error. So at the present time it is not working. If I can get it working I will revert it back to windows 7 and see if I can update the USB ports.

  8. My first pc was a custom built 8088 which had a 20 MG hard drive and a floppy drive which used an actually floppy disk. I learned a fair amount of DOS. I was also turned on to Word, which I religiously upgrade. Now I am up to Office 2010 and see no reason to upgrade… ever again. I know how to use what I need and as someone else mentioned, it is good enough.

    For the most part I have embraced change. Windows 98 and XP were okay since I didn’t know anything better. Fortunately I missed Vista. I usually changed OS when I had to get a new machine which was about every 3 years. Loved Windows 7 and my MSI laptop which I’m on now; it is still running although rather slowly these days. How do you abandon something that has been with you and under your control for almost seven years?

    Resisting change, me? I bought a new Windows 8 (touch) laptop 18 months ago. I set it up, but that’s about it. I tried repeatedly, but it was so different I had to relearn stuff every time I sat down to it. I also have a Surface RT that I use as a “Kindle.” What were those Win 8 guys thinking? Put them up in front of a firing squad with rubber bullets to teach then a lesson.

    I have a Window Phone that I love. Go figure?

    Agreed, the lack of instructional manuals is a pain. I like sitting back and perusing hard copies; online helps are awful for the most part. If I need to learn something new I will search for a “cheat” as most of those are well-written and don’t require an computer degree to understand. Now I found Leo who seems to be a one-stop-shop and makes my computer life much simpler.

    I downloaded Windows 10 as soon as I could on the laptop. Sigh! Back to sanity again. In the process of exploring what is familiar and getting on to the new stuff. This change is welcome and worthwhile.

    • Joe, I think Leo has a large geriatric following also because he doesn’t assume everyone who reads his articles is a computer geek and thus understands everything. That’s one of my pet peeves about computer manuals — that they’re written as if they’re only going to be read by experts and not those of us with little or no knowledge. Geriatric power rules! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Years ago, I worked for a major insurance/financial services firm that truly believed in usability testing, bringing in customers and asking them to complete tasks. And then (for the most part) changing the website so that it would be easier for ordinary folks to use. I wish more companies — especially computer hardware and software firms — would do that. But most start from an assumption that everyone is a computer geek, so they must already know about all of that stuff. Sad. For them. But great for Leo’s subscribers. Thanks!

          • But it’s really who is doing the usability testing. I don’t know who Microsoft uses for testing before releasing their beta versions. But I only ever here of the computer geeky types anxiously waiting to get their hands on the beta versions. I hear the more computer challenged people waiting until it’s released, or even longer. Well by the time the official release comes, it’s too late. They’re not going to go back and make changes now, just because computer challenged people are finding difficulties (although they did with Windows 8.1). Microsoft (and every computer software company) needs to get the alpha/beta versions into the hands of the computer challenged people before the computer geeks.

    • Joe Lombardi:
      If you want the type bigger, just hit ctrl and the plus sign. Smaller, ctrl and the minus sign. You can do either one multiple times to get the size you want. Doesn’t matter what size Leo sets it at.
      (Trying to follow Leo’s example. I originally wrote ctrl + and ctrl -. Then I realized people might not recognize that. When you’ve worked with computers for 50+ years, it’s hard to remember everyone isn’t familiar with all the terms and conventions.)

      • That’s a perfect example. What is so hard about putting a zoom button on the browser. It isn’t. But they assume that everyone knows Ctrl + and Ctrl -. The reality is, I know a lot of people who don’t know that. I know a lot of people who don’t know Ctrl plus the mouse scroll wheel.

        • All the popular browsers the Zoom in their menu. A zoom button on the browser itself is something they probably feel would take up too much browser real estate which is a factor which is always taken into consideration.

          • Which is really what Granarooney’s comment is all about. They assume that everyone knows the basic functions, yet not everyone does. And to put it in a menu somewhere and then make the menu bar disappear (such as in Firefox) and creating a hamburger menu icon and assume that everyone knows that’s what you click to find the hidden menus/options, is a lot of assuming.

            When hamburger menus first came out, I didn’t get any announcement that this was going to be the new way of accessing menus/options. Everyone just started using them on their websites and assumed everyone would figure it out. Well, obviously not everyone did/has, as I recall an AskLeo article a couple months ago where he explained what a hamburger menu was. Leo thought it was important enough to explain it to his readers to ensure that everyone understood that was where you go now.

          • I know! And then you would have to click on the hamburger menu to find the instructions about how the hamburger menu works! And some apps have gears instead of hamburgers. Unfortunately the only options is to just keep up and figure it out as things change.

  9. Often I see the instruction for accessing a desired file or program on a computer “just type an appropriate word into the Search bar.” On my WinXP system I have many shortcuts to those targets because I can’t necessarily remember the appropriate word.

  10. Concerning change: I have an old laptop running XP, Desktop with Vista and newest laptop with 8.1 (originally 8 then upgraded). After what semed like a few weeks with the new laptop learning where things were it was, XP? What’s that? Internet, e-mail, documents, photos, pay bills is the bulk of my computer use so I am very satisfied with the capabilities of the new laptop. I will upgrade to 10 when you give the word, before the year of offer is up. I enjoy reading a lot so your newsletter is right up my alley and a great help. Thank you

  11. I’m 54 Leo and have been reading your site (and newsletter) for years. Thanks to you my friends think I’m a computer expert/guru. Hardly that, but I’m glad to learn from you and help others. And, yes, I DO tell them where I learn my stuff!!

  12. Change was the #1 complaint and that describes windows 10 completely. Also win 7, 8.,8.1 now 10. MS has always been Change for the money, not to better the product. How else would he be the richest man in the world. I have 2 desktops & 2 laptops. 1 desktop has Windows 10 only because I bought a new computer with W 8.1 which as horrible and upgraded to W 10 which is also horrible. All the rest have Vista and I even tried to install Vista on the new one but it wouldn’t give a cursor to select anything so I couldnt install it. My win 10 computer never gets turned on except to get updates once in awhile. I know Vista and can do anytyhing in it so I don’t need a new different os.
    In my last years in the Air Force as an electronics technician I taught myself Assembly Language, Cobol, and Fortran programming and have been a computer programmer ever since, retired in 1988. I am now in my 80’s and too old to learn a new computer os (W 10) so rather than change I will have to give up computers after Vista. It’s been an enjoyable ride. Change is ending it though.

  13. Lets start with and admission, I am a woman, I have asked you a question – and yest I replied to your survey. Now let me tell you why – I do think women ask more questions – and as the bart simpson would say Uh Doh your site makes it so easy to do so. Then you made it even easier to like you by responding so promptly to my question. It had taken me a couple of years to ask a question not because I was shy – rather it took two years before I had a question you had not already answered. So while I can generally never have bothered to reply to a survey – this time I thought I owed you the courtesy of a response. Love your work – thank you for your guides to Macrium – and I am waiting for your green light on Microsoft 10. Thank you and congratulations on a wonderful service!

  14. My opinion on why your readers are over 65 is that , referring to myself, is that in my electrical engineering field, starting in 1959, work places did not have computers. We used slide rules and primitive calculators. New engineers after that time were trained and brought up on computers. We old guys had to learn on our own. We were forced to learn CAD since drawing boards became obsolete. I’m 82 still working and still trying to keep up with computer knowledge. I still can’t find a file after I “save as” They disappear. ??? Your article did not help., Sorry

    • Before you click on the Save As button, look at the top of the box & it should tell you where it is being saved to. I always save my stuff to the Destop (along the left side are some options. Click on “Destop”. After you’ve saved it go to the desktop & find it. Then you can drag it into whatever folder you want to keep it in.

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