Forever a First-Time User:

As a dyslexic, I am always a first-time user.

Every time I open a program or app, there is a momentary “!” as I am blown back. What is this!? What is going on here!? What does this all mean!? I am continually re-familiarizing myself with the interactions.

I swirl my finger around my iPhone as I relearn it each day.

Thought: I need to call someone. Phone icon? Well, that could mean phone I guess. Let’s give it a try:

© House

© WikiMedia

Yep. It means phone.

So, the iPhone is a pretty good user experience because relearning that phone means phone is no big deal.

But the funny thing about many people with dyslexia, is that it is not that we do not understand an icon or word. It’s that we see many possibilities for the icon or word, and must sort through to figure out which one is correct.

For example, the cord return icon on my vacuum.

vacuum

(Disclaimer: I am actually in love with this vacuum. It is not your fault, dear vacuum, that I overthink your button.)

The cord return button (above, right) flummoxes me to no end. It could mean cord, yes. But couldn’t it also kinda mean power? I mean, it’s an electrical thingy that is related to power. And for that matter, the on off (though I am pretty acclimated to this symbol by now) could mean cord. It’s a long line, like a cord.

So you will catch me hovering over the vacuum, wagging my finger back and forth as I re-learn which button to use.

At a certain point I am able to break through this second guessing of buttons and commands.

If I vacuumed every day (admitting.) I would no longer swirl my pointer finger above the buttons. I would just know it. But, I will tell you, I certainly won’t be looking at it. I will just instinctively reach for the button on the right.

After time and intensive use, I reach the level of haptic knowledge, where I have thoroughly embedded the program into my body. Something I use daily, such as Adobe Illustrator, or Gmail, I have under my belt in this way.

And once I know something to this level, I am often faster than the average user. It is quite a thrill. I can maneuver SiriusXM like Hazel Tindall, the world’s fastest knitter, maneuvers her needles.

But don’t ask me to show you around because I won’t really know how to describe it. Especially if you are one of those people who uses their eyes to process stuff.

The Dreaded Upgrade:

I am not a Luddite on purpose. I love the newest and greatest anything. I browse Best Buy like the, well, best of them.

But I do cling to the past when I have mastered something, because it is a big undertaking to change. I don’t want to go back to learning, relearning, relearning, until, finally, several months later, knowing.

For example:

iPhone 4? I miss you terribly, my darling dearest. I had you memorized. I didn’t even have to look down. (And please don’t get me going about my Siemens ST55 with GSM. I weep. My little palm-sized friend.)

Adobe Illustrator? I refuse to upgrade from CS3. I don’t want to spend the time to relearn, when what is important to me at this time is pumping out good works for kids.

The end. Now back to work for me.

P.S. This article, though it talks about my experience, is for the UX designers out there. It’s a little note from an outsider. I am passionate about what you do, and am thrilled to see what you come up with on the daily. I hope the information I have shared here lights you up with even more possibilities.

And it is also for the user who process differently such as I do. For you know that if we are still using Adobe CS3, its not because we don’t care. Or that we are clueless and out of date. It’s because we know it. We own it. And we’d rather just be able to get to work.

 

A Dyslexic Experience with UX Design