Are Your Customers Analog or Digital?

My wife called from the garden to my daughter asking for the time. My daughter replied three fifty (3:50). I immediately thought “why didn’t she say ten to four?” Then I realized that she rarely looks at an analog clock – she probably doesn’t even know what “ten to four” means. Or how about “half past the hour” or “a quarter to the hour”?

Have you ever heard of the Chicago song “25 or 6 to 4”? The song’s title is the time at which the song is set: 25 or 26 minutes before 4 AM (not-so ironic, Chicago also wrote “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”).

As analog timekeeping fades into our past, these references are going to be lost along with “landlines” and “phone booths”. Though, it is interesting to know that analog wrist watches and analog vinyl records are making a comeback.

Technology is changing our lives in subtle ways that we are yet to understand.

How many people know how to count back change? With the modern cash register – or tablet app – it does it all for you. The reference ‘count back change’ is probably lost on some people.

How many people are left that know that the ‘Save’ icon is a floppy disc? Or even know what a floppy disc is?

I am not making a case that this is good or bad but it just is. As we design solution for people, we must consider their frame of reference – their mental model. And how this model is changing ever so rapidly.

With humans living longer and technology evolving so quickly, we now have the challenge of analog mental models, digital metal models and blends. We need to consider all these mental models when we are designing today’s solutions.

It is not uncommon to be designing a solution whereby one group of users still prefer doing things with paper and don’t feel comfortable with technology (extreme analog people) while, on the other end of the spectrum, are people that prefer to interact the latest technology. And there are people who are a blend – they use some technologies for some things and prefer analog interactions for others.

When designing solutions, you need to consider all the types of people who will interact with it and how you are going to accommodate their prefer interactions. Do a little preliminary research to understand your audience then develop some Personas to define them. These are important first steps to designing solutions that make peoples lives better.