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Y Combinator Challenge #2 - Simplified Browsing (astartupaday.wordpress.com)
15 points by jmorin007 on July 23, 2008 | hide | past | web | favorite | 14 comments

The topic of simplified browsing targeted solely to old people comes up all the time with my parents and friends' parents. From what I've collected, old people say they want easier this and that, but when it comes down to it, the individuals that continue to experience difficulty either do not take the time to learn new technology or are hindered by a disability.

If easier means different, how can you expect them to take the time to learn your new approach when they don't take the time to learn something as simple as Google search? Google search is just one huge text box in the middle of the display. It doesn't get much more straightforward. You type what you want to find and then sift through the results.

My mom is the biggest noob when it comes to computers. She doesn't see or expect buttons when she looks at a UI. My mom didn't grow up with GUI's for cable, video games, or computers like I did, but she has been practicing on her computer for the last year or two and is finally getting the hang of it just fine.

I think no matter what you do, a person not used to using computers isn't going to understand without first taking the time to learn the basics.

There is definitely room for improvement though, just don't target any particular age demographic. Someone will come up with something that will make web browsing easier and more efficient for everyone.

Yep, those sound like the kind of users Seth Godin would call "laggards", and trying to build a business around them is usually not the best idea.

Very good points, thanks for the feedback. I spent a year teaching computer classes for middle school kids, and it really was an eye-opening experience. The basic concepts we take for granted (clicking the mouse button, refining a bad search query) are skills that need to be learned. But once they are, watch out. You add together hormones and Google and these guys are suddenly little Mitnicks hacking their way around all the filters we had in place.

understanding the 3d elements of computers such as raised buttons and stacks of tabs or folders seems to be a big tripping point. They aren't sure what they can click on and are afraid to just start clicking because they think it will break something. For them "break something" means when the computer does anything that they haven't seen it do before. Simplified web for old people would probably work as just the same browser but with big instruction boxes popping up everywhere. Google would look the same, but with a box and big arrow pointing and saying "type what you want then click here!" basically someone should make the paper clip of microsoft office for firefox. It would intelligently identify common tasks and offer suggestions.

What all OS need is a simpler way to freeze things. My mom constantly calls me because the UI has changed due to accidental clicks, and my instructions don't work anymore. For example, my explanation for attaching pictures to mails (a REALLY complicated task) involves dragging them to the windows icon on the task bar, but somehow her Gnome task bar keeps losing the "windows selector". One accidental click and all effort has been wasted.

Even my own system I would like to be able to freeze. Firefox 3 seems to have gotten quite bad, for example occasionally it accidentally triggers the "change page direction" switch (which btw. seems like the most stupid option ever, this should be buried somewhere 100 layers deep, not top level).

heh. You have your mom running Linux. Nice. :)

By now she is getting better and better, even googling for solutions to problems ;-)

"For text input, I’d actually not even bother putting a text box anywhere on the screen."

Bad idea. No hint as to where and how to enter text. How is one supposed to come up with the idea to just start typing?

I added some comments in the original post about this one. :)

simplified browsing = google search engine

i've seen 7 years olds using it with incredible ease finding what they want

"and small children don't want the full web; they want to communicate and share pictures and look things up"

Shouldn't they call it simplified communication or simplified file sharing if thats what they mean? I think simplified browsing refers to something else.

Concerning communication, there are already some successful social networks just for children that prevent sharing of personal information.

"communicate and share pictures and look things up"

Also that phrase pretty much sums up the average usage of the internet for any age, not just children.

7 year olds are searching "darth vader rap" on youtube behind your back. They don't understand the web like you do but they figure out/share how to nav to stuff pretty quick.

oh Jesus, how is this simplified? you just introduced a bunch of new functionality. now instead of downloading attachments you need to browse through modules to find them? what happens if the sender is not a trusted contact? it should be simplified not more complicated (which is not what happens if you add IM to it). if your targeted user thinks that FF is too complicated then good luck finding the IM box in your new simplified browser!

Has anyone figured out why it is called the Jesus browser? It is meant to be the resurrection of the browser or something?

It's a tongue-in-cheek reference to how people call the iPhone the Jesus Phone. The main idea = for years mobile phone companies kept churning out iterations on a single UX, and it took Apple starting from scratch and focusing on design first to take the mobile phone to the next level. Why doesn't someone do the same thing with the browser?

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