4 ways beginners see computers differently

Technology tutoring takes place across generations

Are you working with a loved one to help them catch up with computers of the 21st century? Many people find themselves in a position where they are teaching a friend or loved one with basic computer skills, and it’s easy to get frustrated. One of the main reasons it can be so frustrating is because seasoned users don’t always remember what it was like when they were first getting started. Here is a list of four of the most common obstacles between the beginning computer user and the confident computer user:

1. They see the whole page

When a seasoned user is looking at a page on the Internet, they already know what to look for. They see links to click, fields to fill and stuff to read. They don’t see all that unnecessary information that is also on the screen. On the other hand, the inexperienced user has not been trained to look at any one thing. Since they don’t know what they are looking for, they look at everything, from the background, to the windows, to that flashing ad that they shouldn’t touch.

The fix – When working with an inexperienced user, explain what the unnecessary information is before you dismiss it. It will help them to know what not to look for, as well as what to look for.

2. They don’t know what the icons mean

Internet Explorer? Chrome? Firefox? If you have used a computer before, you see these very different icons and see them all as options to get to the Internet.  Another example is that little icon with a person’s head and shoulders on it – that’s a profile icon, no matter where you are online. But, if you are working with someone who isn’t familiar with those icons, then they are not going to know what you mean when you say, “Click on your profile” or “pull up a browser.”

The fix – If you run into a common icon that your inexperienced user doesn’t know, explain it.

3. They can’t see what’s on the screen

Whether we’re young or old, it’s not a user’s fault if an icon is too small. If your user can’t see what they’re looking for, they aren’t going to be able to find it.

The fix – On Windows, go into the start menu and search “magnifier.” I prefer to select the lens mode, because then people can still see the rest of the screen. On Mac, press cmd+space to get a search box. Search for the “accessibility” program.  Once in, choose “zoom." The “picture-in-picture” option will give you about the same experience as the lens mode on a Windows machine. 

4. They haven’t practiced the basics

Just because we know something, doesn’t mean that we’re experts at it. Before someone starts zipping around the web, it’s important that they have their basic computer use down. Knowing how to click, double-click and use a keyboard are often the biggest barriers between using a computer reluctantly and really having fun with it.

The fix – Try and minimize the number of keys and buttons pressed to get your user where they want to be. For instance, if you know the person you’re working with is going to be using a certain website a lot, make a bookmark for them. If they get to somewhere they want to be, they can have fun practicing as opposed to being annoyed that they are so far from getting started.


Still frustrated? We love helping beginners. Tech tutoring and drop-ins are available for computer users of all levels across our Anythink libraries. Look at the events schedule to see if there are drop-ins at your local Anythink.