The browser’s address bar does not exist. If you’ve spent any time looking at common search terms, you know that people will type “cnn.com” into Google rather than saving a step and typing it into the address bar. For many people the address bar is invisible. And when instructed to type something into it, they (a) they don’t know what it does and (b) don’t know how it works (they will type in spaces and punctuation). This gives me slightly more appreciation for SEO: you’d better be sure your site comes up when its URL and close variations are searched for.
Browsers have several toolbars occupying much of the screen. All web developers know to test in multiple browsers, screen resolutions and operating systems. But how many also test with two or three toolbars installed? This is especially important if you have clients who insist on certain elements being “above the fold.” And who can blame users for having needless toolbars, when something as innocuous as a Flash or Acrobat update will also install a toolbar? Most users don’t know how to get rid of them.
Computers are usually operated in a state of mild fear and anxiety. For many users, every keystroke is fraught with peril. They are afraid that something Really Bad will happen if the wrong button is pushed, that they will be unable to undo. One of the joys of raising kids today is to see how comfortable they are pushing buttons on computers to see what happens. (My two-year-old navigates YouTube on an iPhone better than I do.) We forget that these skills do not come naturally, and even though grandma may have been using email for 10 years, she still might not have any clue how to find something on the Web. The lesson here is timeless: Strip the needless bells and whistles from your design and make it ridiculously easy for users to find what they need.