Teens as Digital Users

By Steven Hoober Published: March 10, 2014 “We know far too little about most types of users, so we work off anecdotes, popular-media portrayals, and gut instinct all too often. … There’s one huge segment of the population that is a total cipher: the teenaged digital user.” These days, everyone nods and agrees when I talk about the need to design for every type of user. But, as UX professionals, we know far too little about most types of users, so we work off anecdotes, popular-media portrayals, and gut instinct all too often. Recently, I participated in some great discussions about designing for inclusiveness, and I’ve seen good examples of the actual issues that people living with vision or mobility challenges encounter. Nevertheless, there’s one huge segment of the population that is a total cipher: the teenaged digital user. Teens as digital users are the subject of much discussion, but almost everything that we think we know about their usage of devices and their preferences is completely anecdotal. The vast majority of articles that dig into teen motivations and usage trends rely on an interview with a single teenager—usually one who is related to the author, is moderately or even very affluent, and is surrounded by technology. I don’t much care how those kids work, in the same way that you wouldn’t care how my kids work. I care how all teenagers work.

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