Open Thread: Open Letter to Tech Product Designers

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Dear Tech Product Designers,

I know you have mortgages, but could you please hit ‘pause” in some of the ‘upgrades” and “new and improveds?” It took me long enough to get the hang of the previous program/application/technology and now you went and changed it. Again.

I’m generalizing, but many people my age spend much more time on medical and financial issues than younger people.  I rebel against being forced to spend time and brainspace (which is limited, believe me!) learning something new that replaces something I already understand and that works for me.

But if you are changing or upgrading…

How about…

…Instructions that are big enough and clear enough to read and that you can download and print for future reference.

…Not assuming we know the infrastructure. People in my age group are largely digital immigrants.  We’re still learning the language and conventions – which keeps changing!

…Respecting our physical limitations. Older people are…older! We hate small screens, tiny fonts, insufficient volume in devices, non-intuitive procedures, hard to open, hold or manipulate devices.  Hey guys, we’re all a generation or two older than the folks in your engineering departments – we have arthritic fingers, vision or hearing limitations. Give us a break!

The Last Straw in Product Design

Most of all, I resent the enforced ‘planned obsolescence” in hardware and software that requires people on fixed incomes to upgrade (and spend more) whether they can afford it or not.

In my hometown, the city announced they are phasing out Metrocards. That means older people will be required to buy upgraded phones and a wifi plan, instead of slipping a ten into a kiosk and getting a Metrocard refilled.

But that’s me.  What do you think tech product designers should know about our needs? Let us know in the comments!

Virge Randall is Senior Planet’s Managing Editor. She is also a freelance culture reporter who seeks out hidden gems and unsung (or undersung) treasures for Straus Newspapers; her blog “Don’t Get Me Started” puts a quirky new spin on Old School New York City. Send  Open Thread suggestions to

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