Those that many of us consider to be “newbies” probably reflect the majority of computer users.

Listen to the podcast: Newbie? Or Normal?

Hi everyone, this is Leo Notenboom with news, commentary, and answers to some of the many questions I get at

One of the things I try to do here from time to time at Ask Leo! is to be an advocate for real people. By that, I mean the real people that use their computers and software every day, but use them as tools, not as a hobby, a toy, or an avocation. The “newbies” among us, who aren’t really new at all, those who are just not as enamored with the technology as we are.

You know, “normal” people.

So, what is it that needs advocating? It’s quite simple really – simplicity.

It’s nothing new, and we all complain about it – it seems like most software, sites and tools are chock full of features that most real people never use.

Now, if real people never use it, you might say that’s not a problem – but it is. All those whiz bang features and gizmos end up cluttering up the interface that real people still have to deal with.

Consider the cellular phone. Over the past year I’ve had several requests for a recommendation for “just a phone.” Apparently in the mobile world, “just a phone” doesn’t exist. Phones have to have features – lots of features – address books, voice response, speaker phones, ring tones, email, internet, text messaging, wallpapers… the list goes on.

Those are all fine, fine features. But there’s a huge market of people out there that just want to dial a number to make a call, and answer the phone when it rings. Nothing more.

And they’re out of luck. Not only are their needs not being addressed, but they’re suffering serious frustration as they attempt to use the simplest but still feature-laden phone they can find. They don’t want to, nor should they have to, study a user’s manual for an afternoon just to make and take phone calls.

The same is true for computers and applications.

We have to remember that most real people aren’t as impressed as we are by all the things software and electronics can do, and aren’t interested in figuring out how to make it all work. You and I, we’re in it for the fun and wonder, and that’s great, as far as it goes – but real people are trying to actually do something, something that’s probably not related to the technology they’re using to do it. And all those things we think are so cool and exciting are actually getting in people’s way.

So the next time you’re designing some nifty new feature or product, keep real people in mind. Will they really care? Really? Nine times out of ten, I’m sure they won’t.

Do the job, do it simply, do it well, and people will beat a path to your product.

My guess is that the first company with a truly simple cell phone will really have a winner.

I’d love to hear what you think. Visit ask leo dot info, and enter 10559 in the go to article number box. Leave me a comment, I love hearing from you.

This is a presentation of, a free on-line technical question and answer service. Hundreds of questions and answers are online and ready to help solve your computer problems.


[tags]podcast,newbie,leo notenboom,,practical computing,practical tech[/tags]