Is technology making us a generation of confused consumers?

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Remember when life was simple and using an iPhone or iPad could even be accomplished by a four-year-old?

Fast forward five years and we often find ourselves bamboozled by technology and its rapid advancement. A case in point being the latest phones, whilst losing the reliable elements like the Touch ID fingerprint scanner and home button may be applauded by tech geeks and early adopters, for the average consumer it’s just more confusion. The daily grind can be hard enough without needing a written manual to use a supposedly state-of-the-art smartphone.

Our own research bears out this theory that consumers are becoming fed up with what can often just be innovation for innovation’s sake. We questioned 2000 people and more than seven out of 10 (73 per cent) said they feel devices such as smartphones and tablets have become far too complicated. They cited confusing interfaces, large numbers of apps and different data storage options as things that are making technology difficult to use.

What’s worrying about our research findings is that confusion is leading to consumers ‘turning off and dropping out’ - three quarters of those questioned said they failed to regularly back-up their laptop or computer because it is too complicated and only four out of 10 feel confident their entire digital life is securely backed-up.

So maybe it’s time that things went back-to-basics. Given that the fundamental challenges of mobile telephony, email, good-quality photos and GPS navigation have been solved, do developers and engineers now need to think about what the average user actually wants, rather than what Silicon Valley thinks they need? As the late Steve Jobs said in 1998: ‘Simple can be harder than complex.’

Especially when you consider we have just had cyber security month and our research also showed customers are switching off when it comes to online security.

Passwords nightmare

Face recognition, thumbprint ID, Keychain, LastPass, Dashlane – does the average consumer even know what most of these supposed security-enhancing tools are?

As the world of IT security is becoming ever more complex, so much so that it’s hard to keep pace with the most effective way of keeping your electronic life safe. And when things become too complicated, it can result in complacency.

Again, this is backed up by our own research, as previously stated, we questioned 1000 people and more than 70 per cent said they felt smartphones and tablets have become too complicated and, as a result, they neglect basic IT security. Only 33 per cent said they are vigilant about password security, with half admitting to keeping passwords on post-it notes or in their phone.

Good password practice is the lynchpin to all online security. Whilst password storing apps and personalised ID recognition are all useful tools to bolster security, they are only effective if the individual has a robust approach to password protection.

Unpredictability is the key thing to remember with passwords – it’s the one area of life where being erratic and haphazard is actually beneficial! Always think of being complex – as a basic rule aim for a minimum of eight characters with a random set of upper and lower-case letters, symbols and numbers. Ideally use different passwords for different devices and accounts. And if you are going to use a password storage app, then it is vital that the password for this is complex and you change it regularly.

And cyber security has a huge impact on companies especially since GDPR as I’ve found so many businesses who have their heads in the ‘cloud’ when it comes to their own personal and work digital life.

Unless you’ve been living on the moon, it’s hard to have escaped GDPR - in short, new EU regulation that will give individuals more power to demand that companies reveal or delete the personal data they hold.

Feels too complicated

Whether that’s social media sites, apps or emails from website databases that you’ve subscribed to, from May 25, 2018 we have more control over what companies do with our data.

Although these new rules are great for protecting consumers from digital misuse, our own research has shown that, worryingly, many of us are not very good at looking after our own digital lives.

Again this is shown in our research the Lifeline IT 2018 IT Trends Survey where 60 per cent said they did not feel confident their entire digital life – everything from photos and emails to documents across devices such as iPhones, tablets and PCs - is backed up. Meaning everything could be lost if they were to have a hardware failure.

One of the main reasons for this lapse in data management, again, appears to be the complexity of modern day technology – 75 per cent of those questioned said they failed to back up their laptop or computer regularly because they aren’t really sure where to start and feel it is too complicated.

And whilst the words ‘data storage’ are eponymously linked to the ‘Cloud’, people are still nervous about what happens to their data once it gets sent there. More than six out of 10 people (64 per cent) that we questioned said they don’t trust the Cloud.

So perhaps the key thing to take from GDPR is that whilst thinking about what other people are doing with your data, maybe now is a good time to focus on what you’re actually doing with your own digital life.

Daniel Mitchell, founder and director, Lifeline IT
Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa