December 03, 2006

Photoshop & Macs: The new shuffleboard?

This week C|NET published findings from MetaFacts indicating that "nearly half of Mac owners are 55 and older–almost double the share for average home PC users."  Apple disputes this claim, though I’d take it as a compliment that my tools can be used by a generation not raised by Grand Theft Auto. 

As it happens, the registered base* of Photoshop customers has skewed older in recent years, due to the exploding popularity of digital photography.  The same folks who in previous generations might’ve sprung for a home darkroom now tend to buy a really nice digital SLR, computer, and the best software to go with it.  These trends prompted my colleague Ashley to quip, "Photoshop & Macs: The new shuffleboard?"

This demographic trend has some practical implications. Most obviously, we need to make a user interface that’s easy to navigate with older eyes.  Given the 20- and 30-something demographics of many visual designers, this isn’t always easy to remember, but we’re working on it.  The emergence of scalable, resolution-independent will be essential here, and in the meantime Photoshop CS2 added the ability to adjust the font size of the interface (a small thing, literally, but a step in the right direction).

*Note: This of course way undercounts all the five-finger-discounting little l33t-speak haxxor-kiddies. (“im in ur base, stealin ur ‘Shop…”)

Posted by John Nack at 7:22 AM on December 03, 2006


  • Mordy Golding — 1:11 PM on December 03, 2006

    Another theory which I’ve used in these cases is that older people generally tend to register their software, while the younger folk do not. Chalk this up either to older people having more time on their hands to fill out the paperwork, etc or that younger people fear registration because of the threat of identity-theft, spam, etc.
    So the data is skewed in either sense. Although I was never one for taking hard-line data without some grain of salt. Data is always skewed.
    But besides the size and readibility of the interface, we’re also dealing with a whole slew of users who now also must memorize their Photoshop tools AND their kids’ names…
    Where was that whatchamacalit thingy with the doodad sprayer again?

  • Gerry — 1:38 PM on December 03, 2006

    I turned my dad on to the Mac platform when he retired at 65 so he could make movies easily with iMovie & iDVD. He’s now on his third Mac. I’m sure he helped bump up the age number in that study.
    [Heh–my folks are on their third as well. My dad loves fooling with the Dock. –J.]

  • Richard Harrington — 3:22 PM on December 03, 2006

    I think that we are overlooking another fact. When we register software for the company, it is done in my name. Same holds true for lots of small businesses. So I think that business owners will often skew older.
    Another side, Macs are easier to use for a new user (argue all you want). I know a lot of folks who’ve retired and are jsut sick of the computer they used every day. The digital lifestyle model of Apple is attractive.

  • Neil — 5:57 PM on December 03, 2006

    What is the point of the age comments? I am on my 12th mac in 20 years and am 82. Unix was fine and still is. I use both. Am waiting for a quad to be released. When you include software, Macs have been less expensive for some time. Maybe thats why they are getting more popular.

  • didjeri zotz — 7:37 PM on December 03, 2006

    I’ve been a computer professional since 1962, and I never really liked computers ’till I discovered Macs in the mid ’80s. I’m 63, my wife 68. We have 2 iBooks and a 20″iMac G5. We’ve been all OSX since jaguar. How, and why would we settle for anything less?

  • BWJones — 8:17 PM on December 03, 2006

    I have *always* been younger than other computer users around me, yet manage to serve as a resource for them to learn about technology and interestingly enough, typically end up managing to switch “older” individuals to the Mac like my last couple of bosses, and perhaps, given a query in the last week, in the not too distant future, my chairman.
    However, I don’t think it is an age issue. Rather it is a productivity issue. Macs just don’t get in the way as much and allow one to focus on the work rather than on the device.
    Oh, and John and Ashley… I have some code you might be interested in. Give me a few days and I’ll post a blog entry with some exciting new tools.
    [Sounds good, Bryan. –J.]

  • Robert MacLeay — 11:16 PM on December 03, 2006

    “nearly half of Mac owners are 55 and older”
    Holy (expletive deleted)!
    MORE THAN HALF of all Mac users are UNDER 55 according to this survey.
    People who cannot understand statistics — or even read them — have no right to an opinon.
    Yes, the average age of PeeCee users is younger, but speaking from personal experience, there are a whole lot of stupid things I did when younger which I no longer do.

  • George Mann — 6:16 AM on December 04, 2006

    Maybe Mac users live longer than PC users. All of the “rest of us” just keep on trucking on.
    Probably more likely that we keep using our Macs longer than the PC users, who quit out of frustration when they finally reach the age of reason, or they switch to Mac.

  • ehagerty — 1:09 PM on December 05, 2006

    As a 62 year old, I have used PC’s for the last 35 years (that’s right), and finally got fed up with Windows and really enjoy the ease of using the iMac 20″. Photography is my serious hobby and the iMac is head and sholders above the PC for ease of use.
    I guess you could say I came to my senses late in life, but the iMac blows the PC away. I am a loyal iMac user now. It just works.

  • S — 7:16 PM on December 05, 2006

    Something else to take into consideration when working on scalable UI: your apps are now being used on a very wide range of screens, ranging from 11″ (or even smaller) laptops all the way up to 30″ panels. Designing something that works on both is essential (and difficult).
    [Yes indeed, but that’s why they pay us the (theoretically) big bucks. :-) It’ll be a good challenge. –J.]

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