Are we users?
I was sitting at the table the other night contemplating the word “user” and trying to remember when and where I was when someone at a web marketing workshop indicated that “user” was the better term to apply rather than “visitor.”
“User” is applied more often to describe ourselves on the web. Who uses the term “visitor” anymore?
It’s been some time now that Google Analytics changed from visits and unique visitors to “sessions” and “users” respectively. And users don’t “visit” a site, they enter it (like a “visitor” enters your house — I know, it’s confusing).
Common words heard today are user-interface design, user agents, user computing environment, user experience, user research, usability, and user testing. This list goes on.
OK fine, “user” may better describe how we use sites, but does anyone online still think of us as visitors to a website, not customers or clients? What could be the implications of this if we’re “users” and not a type of “visitor?”
Another awkward thing about the word “user,” I find I am using use, user, and using too much. What’s my verb now? Apply? Visits? Utilize? Manipulate or operate?
We still want to satisfy our curiosity — who called, who’s there. We still want to be connected, but we want to monitor our connections and respond only if we want or if it’s likely best.
As technology continues to interweave and become integral to our professional and everyday lives, we are more apart of the society online, and in this way not just visitors anymore.
A thread could be drawn from the first telephone lines, to our answering machine attached to our landline, to our voicemail on our digital phones, to our connectivity through our computer and handheld devices.
We’re connected in the same sphere and similarly apply the tools available to us in this sphere on a daily basis in order to be productive.
Maybe for marketers and businesses alike, “users” describe this engagement far better than “visitors.” But today that notion is deceiving, as privacy rights are being challenged.
We are being tracked constantly online through our searches, our accounts, and our social platforms. How they’re tracking us the users, and when, is another question. We still want control of that, too. And then as users, will we be able to continue using the web freely and equally?
The word “user” continues to illicit more questions about how I think of myself on the internet and how we’ll be measured and assessed in the future.
Published by Cindy Barnard, web content strategist
Molding my "Approach to Art and the Written Word" by observing color and following light, form, and time. Always learning new ways of working and interacting within local and online communities. Taking in the sights and sounds and making notes.