Annual “Normals” Research

I love the term “normals” as a descriptor for non-techies and thought that this tweet by Gabe Riveria, the founder of TechMeme, over the holiday week expressed a great sentiment:

Hoping that my friends returning to Silicon Valley have had a very Merry Annual Normals Market Research With The Family.

It encouraged me to observe my less technical family members more closely.  Here are some things I noticed:

  • Casual gaming is huge.  My mother and wife played Words With Friends constantly often playing each other in the same room.
  • Managing across multiple devices is important.  My father was a satisfied Andriod user and switched to the iPhone because he wanted a seemless cross-device experience with his iPad.  One of his major pain points is synching his contacts off Outlook on his PC to his phone.  (This also illustrates the stickiness of existing solutions for Normals.  As a retiree, he has no real reason to still be on Outlook other than habit.)
  • Tablets can make the web accessible to new browsers.  My mother-in-law is an avowed technophobe and was very proud of herself when she located a hard-to-find item on the web using the browser on my iPad.  It is impossible to image her doing the same thing with a Mac or PC.
  • The Kindle Fire may be the tablet of choice for Tweens.  My 11 year old nephew received a Kindle Fire as a Christmas gift and is thrilled with it.  He had been saving for an iPad for over a year but was not making meaningful progress. To him (the user) the Fire is the same as an iPad and to his mother (the economic buyer), it is actually affordable.
  • No one gets Twitter.  Despite its huge user base and prominence in the media, zero people in my family use it and no one could comprehend why I do.

Obviously, a family is not a representative sample size but making an effort to stay grounded in what is important to the average user is critical so I’m glad I came across Gabe’s comment even if he was joking.

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