In my March column, I talked about designing for personas; this month I'm going to talk about designing for generations. Both help developers design appropriate systems by evoking profiles of typical users. However, personas are user archetypes defined by goals and tasks; generations are user archetypes characterized by attitude and age. The two are inexorably intertwined. However, while there's lots of written literature about personas, generational attitudes towards systems seemed to have received short shrift. This column attempts to redress that neglect.

Those born before 1950 typically view information technology as unsettling and scary. My 85-year-old mother is convinced that her PC will blow up if she hits the wrong button on her keyboard. At the very least, this generation views systems as somewhat impolite - better to send a handwritten note than zing off an e-mail.

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