Ever watch someone hilariously struggle with some new form of technology and think – “I could make some money off of that”? Scotty Adams did, and the results have been remarkable in the ever expanding niche-user market of usability testing.
It all began last year when Adams’ friend, Richard Littauer, a UX professional, started theuserisdrunk.com as a joke, but instead found a surprising response – people were lining up to have Richard get wasted and try out their sites. This seems logical considering how many people like to drink and also use the internet. Situational awareness! However, Littauer found so much success, that he realized for the sake of his liver, he needed to limit the drunk tests to “once or twice a week.” But Littauer also knew he was on to something and soon he and Adams were working together to create the website The User is My Mom, a site which seeks to help creators of other websites find what troubles the “typical” mom type user – i.e., people who ostensibly do not know what they are doing. Littauer’s mom was busy, so they recruited Adams’ sober, but still easily confused mother, Pam:
My mom is tired of your shit.
She can’t understand your website and it isn’t her fault.
It’s time we talked.
My mom tutors high school students and likes quilting and hiking. She yells at her computer, doesn’t know what a twitter is, and struggles to find windows she’s minimized.
You should design with your mother in mind. If she can’t understand your site, others will struggle as well.
Your mom loves you too much to give you honest feedback. My mom thinks you’re probably a lovely person, but may not like your work. She’ll try to use your website and tell you how she really feels.
And there is a you tube channel with videos of his mom doing just that. So far, Pam, Scotty and Richard have completed seven different tests for websites including twitter.com and smartersudoku.com. The Twitter review video is incredibly entertaining, if you enjoy watching the computer screen of someone’s mom as she tries to figure out why she can’t just use her name – Pam – as her @ name as she signs in and sees the actual website itself for the first time ever. “There are probably a few of them on there already, Mom” Scotty explains. She is also confounded by Twitter’s “suggestions” – “How do you know they work? They’re just suggestions!” she declares as Richard and Scotty laugh in the background. Pam is a very good sport.
Once she finally gets “on” Twitter she paradoxically and somewhat astutely complains that she is “never going to use this, there are too many words.” She begins to follow some celebrities and delete others, with Seth MacFarlane and Ellen Degeneres making the cut. The guys ask her if she knows what “following” means and she replies “Some how they send you tweets?” Pam also existentially opines, “I watch Jimmy Fallon, so I know there are hashtags, but I don’t know what that means.” Then, after her initial impression of “too many words,” she admits, “I would rather read long form than this.” Pam finally concludes that “this is not for old people.”
Whether her ultimate conclusion of an age barrier is empirically true or not, the fact is, Pam does provide a great deal of insight into the possible issues anyone could have as they attempt to navigate new technology, and her “every mom” persona is dead on – at one time in the video you can hear a house phone ringing and she tells Scotty “Oh dear, sorry about that, I’m sure it’s Dad, I’m just going to let it keep ringing, is that all right?”
Along with these screencasts, The User is My Mom also provides for their clients “a proper writeup too, with some motherly UX advice.” The website tells potential clients to email for pricing and details, but the drunken site did list its price as having started at $75 in the beginning and now commanding a price of $250. Which begs the question, who might you know that is terrible at the internet? Perhaps we could try to cash in.