Home > Editorial > Writing a Grandma-Friendly Opera browser tutorial

Writing a Grandma-Friendly Opera browser tutorial

June 8, 2006

A few months back, when I was in Florida visiting my Grandmother, I installed the Opera browser on her computer. Upon installing it, she asked me if I could print for her a tutorial on how to use the Opera browser.

I looked around for a tutorial to give her, but to my astonishment, I couldn’t find one.

My grandmother, like a majority of computer users, is not very computer literate or tech-savvy. She knows how to start and shut down her computer, check her email, and play solitaire.

She wanted to learn the basic functionality of the Opera browser, nothing fancy.

But there was nothing out there. I’ve seen the Opera Lover series, which contains excellent Opera tutorials, but I was looking for a single tutorial with a short overview of some of the Opera basics.

The official Opera tutorial on the desktop browser is nice, but is not for the regular user. Opera’s tutorial is more for the intermediate/advance user. My grandmother doesn’t want to know about Opera’s JavaScript options, Mouse gestures, Notes, Panels, and some other stuff that she would never use. Now don’t get me wrong, I use these features myself, but I’m an advanced user.

Prior to the release of Opera 8, many considered the Opera desktop browser as too complicated, and that its primary user base was for power users. With Opera 8, however, many things were changed. From the new look and feel to the changed default settings, Opera tried to make things simpler.

I must say that it did an excellent job at simplifying the browser (though it could still do more). But this is just one piece of the puzzle. Opera needs to make it easy for users to switch from other browsers to Opera.

Internet Explorer (IE) is very different than Opera, both in ‘look and feel’ and functionality. One of the toughest parts of users, especially non-technical, who make the switch from IE, is to become familiar and comfortable with the Opera browser.

Opera does some things very different than IE. For example, Opera doesn’t have “Favorites”, but rather “Bookmarks”. Of course it has tabs too. But most importantly, it looks different.

A basic tutorial, for new users, would help ease the transition to the Opera browser.

The tutorial should go over just the basic features of Opera, while leaving the more advanced features to another tutorial. It should also have screenshots along with the tutorial, which is lacking in the official Opera tutorial.

We’ll call this tutorial a “Grandma-Friendly Tutorial”.

I spoke to one of Opera’s vice presidents yesterday by phone, and among the things we discussed was the need for such a tutorial. I believe this is an important step for Opera, if it wants to successfully reach out to the average IE user.

I would like to pose this question to you, the reader. What should be mentioned in such a tutorial? Which Opera features and functionalities should be discussed?

I personally would like to see the follow topics mentioned: how to use tabs, bookmarks, wand (Password Manager).

For this tutorial I wouldn’t include mouse gestures, even though it’s one of the best features that Opera has to offer. But try explaining to my grandmother why moving the mouse to the left is much easier and faster than clicking the “Back” button in the menu bar. You have to try out mouse gestures in order to see its real advantages.

The objective of this tutorial would be to provide the less-technical-savvy user with the bare minimum information for them to use Opera.

Let’s not bombard them with information at the outset.

Please post your comments and ideas for a Grandma-Friendly tutorial of the Opera browser. Hopefully, with your feedback, I can write up this tutorial in time for the release of Opera 9 later this month.

Categories: Editorial
  1. PhakE**
    June 8, 2006 at 3:07 pm

    I would like to see a big clear chart of shortcuts that you could print out and have besides the comp. You know just the basic simple ones, like Ctrl + N, Ctrl + W, Ctrl + Tab or for zooming (goldie for oldie 🙂 and of course description of what they do.

  2. sherman
    June 8, 2006 at 3:48 pm

    You mean like this?

  3. mabdul
    June 8, 2006 at 4:12 pm

    this should be a realy good feature.

    maye this should be a new start-page after a new instalation.

    i was lucky after i could my family explain the firefox to them and they don’t really uses any feature.

    in a tutorial should be explaind things like flash (on firefox you ony need to an icon to instal it, that should be a really “new” and good update for opera, because if flah is not instaled, the page couldn’t viewed)

    another explaination should be the session after the browser has to be reseted/started new –> this windows irritated me the first time!

    the popup-blocker also is a really good invention! [and also without any explaination how to start or to conigurate!]


  4. mabdul
    June 8, 2006 at 4:16 pm

    oh: and i missed the thing with the google-search-field or the g and the searching-key in the browser

  5. June 8, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    My grandma has got bad eyesight so she is using Opera in accessibility mode (don’t know if that’s the exact English name). I agree with you that Opera’s default layout is too complicated/scary for non-techies. I have removed everything she doesn’t use from the interface.

    She doesn’t use the web much so there wasn’t much she really needs. She mostly visits sites family members email her, or by typing in the address.

    Her Opera looks only has one toolbar with Back, Next, Address bar and Close, and the tabs bar on the bottom. Because she is using an 800×600 resolution there isn’t much room for more toolbars.

    The default font sizes in Windows are also set to big, this made it almost impossible to change any setting because the OK and Cancel buttons where just outside the screen.

  6. June 8, 2006 at 5:06 pm

    opera:config should be the first thing in grandma-tutorial 😀
    I seriously, all depends how “grandma” want to use Opera – only as browser? Also as e-mail client? Will “grandma” use news feeds? 😉

    Many seniors have bad sight. So, it can be convinient to them having Zoom and Fit to width on main toolbar.
    Buttons Fast forward and Fast backward shouldn’t be on main toolbar because it’s hard to explain how to use them and also it’s different from IE.
    Button Home can be helpful. Usually “grandmas” use very few sites, so home should be set up by user to most favorite site.
    Wand cold be helpful too because many users don’t remember passwords especially old ones.
    As for tutorial itself:
    – it should be printable (maximum 2 pages, better to fit just one page)
    – contain pictures of toolbar buttons, other useful parts of interface
    – contain shortcuts for most useful features

  7. scipio
    June 8, 2006 at 5:13 pm

    Writing a basic tutorial is not an easy task. There are so many features that enable you to browse more comfortably, but that can’t be considered basic. Besides, I think many people prefer Opera to Internet Explorer (or Firefox) for its advanced features.

    Do you tell “grandma” how to set her homepage but do you omit the other start-up options?

    Do you tell her about Wand but not about the Master Password?

    Should you mention bittorrents when explaining the Transfer Manager?

    The mail client is very easy to use, but is it too much to discuss it in this basic tutorial?

    Are FastForward and Rewind easy to understand?

    Topics that should not be forgotten in such a tutorial (imho):
    * zoom
    * delete private data (?)
    * general tab in Preferences
    * the lock icon in the address field
    * reopening closed pages

    Also, grandma should not be afraid of anything she sees in the default UI. So she should have a clue about what most things do.

  8. June 8, 2006 at 6:03 pm

    Once there were books, titled as “Opera Web Browser For Dummies” and “The Opera 5.X Book: Browsing the Web With Speed and Style”.

    You can easily find ones at the library or on the web, for details.

    New version of “for Dummies”, whose title is nice or not I’m not sure. Also there was a Japanese text book for Opera7 with CD, I don’t have/need.
    It’ good timing to consider a new version like Opera9 for Dummies or like that.

    #sherman’s dead link might point to either, I guess.

  9. June 8, 2006 at 10:05 pm

    FataL, maybe I wasn’t that clear about audience of such a tutorial. This has nothing to do with seniors or grandmothers, it’s for **non-tech-savvy** users — regardless of age.

    I just used my grandmother as an example.

  10. June 8, 2006 at 10:07 pm

    scipio, that’s right. This is why I’m elisting your help 🙂

  11. June 8, 2006 at 10:24 pm

    I slapped together a few screenshots of my Opera 8 and Opera 9 copies on my computer. (See My Opera Album) My Opera 8 copy has a large toolbar which makes the browser strongly resemble Internet Explorer or Firefox, which makes it a bit easier to transition over.

    When I got Opera 9, I decided that I was using Mouse Gestures and Keyboard Shortcuts enough that I really didn’t need to waste extra screen space on a particularly large toolbar setup like in IE.

    However, to any senior starting to lose their eyesight or fine motor coordination, smaller buttons are going to make it near impossible. They’re not going to want to try to use Mouse Gestures, as they’re very confusing for someone who didn’t grow up with computers. Additionally, seniors just “want the computer to work” and don’t want to have to relearn how to browse the web, so by keeping a very similar layout to IE (which is what they were probably previously browsing on), it minimizes the frustration for them. It’s like having a safer version of IE without a red “O” in the corner instead of a green “e” — since the browser setup would be nearly identical (I doubt they’d want to probe around under the Tools > Preferences menu at all.

    Upon reading comments on this post, I’d also remove the Fast Forward and Rewind buttons, since these are confusing and an advanced feature.

    I would like to recommend to Opera to issue an easy way to switch from the Large toolbar to the Small toolbar (FF lets you do that). (Or perhaps have a “Beginners Edition, where Mouse Gestures and Keyboard shortcuts are disabled by default so that seniors don’t get confused when the page changes and they are unaware that they did anything.. this Beginners Edition would feature the large, IE-like toolbar).

    I think at this point, the functionality of Opera mimics the functionality of IE if you don’t try to use any advanced features. A tutorial is not particularly necessary. Make sure not to cover keyboard shortcuts except Cut-Copy-Paste, Print, New Tab, and maybe a few others. Oh, that’s the difference between this “Beginners Edition” copy and IE: tabs. Describe how they work and how to use them. Describe sessions so that they can save whatever they’re working on, close it, and open it for later (though usually just checking email doesn’t require sessions, so perhaps this isn’t needed). Make sure to describe Bookmarks, since they want to be able to remember that site that you told them about. Tell them about the Google Search menu (and perhaps [g query_goes_here]). And then people with imperfect eyesight need to know about “Fit To Page” and Zoom. Sometimes pages hang, especially when on 56k, so the Reload button might be worth mentioning (and since by default, new documents and images are only checked once every 5 hours unless the Refresh button is used, they may be like “why isn’t it displaying correctly!?”). Searching a page for text is useful for finding info and not spending all day doing it; this’ll speed them up. They’ll want to know Wand, since remembering passwords can be tough. They’ll also need to know if they need to check for updates of the browser, so they don’t get out of date software with security holes. Pages accidentally get closed: mention the Trash can to restore those “oops” moments.

    To sum up what features I’d want in a “basic” tutorial:
    – Basic Shortcuts
    – Tabs
    – Bookmarks
    – Google Search Menu
    – Zoom / Fit To Page
    – Refresh
    – Find on Page
    – Wand
    – Check for Updates
    – Trash Can for Closed Windows

    And hide all of the advanced features from them–they don’t want to be confused. Let’s make this an easy transition for them. Hide the sidebar Panel by default (along with the Panel toggle). Hide Forward/Rewind.

  12. June 9, 2006 at 1:32 am

    Oh, my God. If you do not want Opera’s advantages, use Explorer, please. Because of every neighbour would help you. Mouse gestures, notes (Ctrl-Shift-C), accessibility mode (Shift-F11, 8) and so on are essential features for a grandpa.

    I cannot quite catch, what a basic tutorial could you get – for a novice user or for a common dummy, still using Explorer? Bookmarks, contacts, history, chat, shortcuts are basic, common tools. BTW, Opera has a standard multi-window interface (with cascading, linking, tiling, and so on, like MS Works), not tabs like in Firefox.

  13. June 9, 2006 at 3:22 am

    should ask the grandmas themselves. maybe ask them what they want to do with it??

    go for the basic stuffs.. must-have options are the Zoom thing, using Tabs (since they’re from IE), find on page(the new create search thing)

    maybe have some options at the beginning of the Tutorial like

    1. A Grandma’s Tutorial- a really simple guide like the basic stuffs.
    2. average user- who wants to use simple opera features like the mouse gestures, widgets
    3. advanced user- editing page …

    and at the end of the tutorial put something like:

    Learn more about Widgets..->go to a new page
    How to get Feeds-> go to a new page

    make the layout Super Simple and Grandma Friendly with lots of Pictures and a little description like the Nero Startsmart thing. Just make it simple.

  14. June 9, 2006 at 3:36 am

    Hello everybody,

    I have been working in a hotline of a friendly society some time. (membership corporation or registered association) Grandmas do from a browser just expect to browse with him.
    My opinion is the Grandma-Tutorial should be for “only browsing”.
    This means also “no keyboard shortcuts”. They are too difficult
    to learn for Grandma.

    Daniel named the items:
    – how to use tabs,
    – bookmarks,
    – wand (Password Manager)

    I would add:
    – search field
    – reload
    – find in page (Ctrl-F)
    – adress field (of course)
    – back button, forward button (no fast forward, back)

    Should there be a other skin like the “likeie-0_732”?
    The (large) main toolbar is sure better than the Window toolbar.

    best greetings, Thomas

  15. Arve
    June 9, 2006 at 4:39 am

    I would encourage you to look at the Opera Visual Tutorials.

  16. June 9, 2006 at 5:02 am

    I’m sorry, but if grandma is not going to use all of the advanced features of Opera and is familiar with IE I’d just give her Firefox. I’m an Opera fanboy myself, but that doesn’t mean Opera is a good idea for every user out there, especially grandmas.

    If Opera wants to be a grandma-friendly browser some serious work needs to be done. However, maybe a browser for both grandma and power users is just too much to ask for? The power user will want all of the power-options available and grandma will just get confused.

    Maybe a poweruser/grandma switch should be added? The installer could explain the differences between power/grandma-mode and you could always switch later.

  17. non-troppo
    June 9, 2006 at 6:51 am

    Don’t forget security!!! See http://nontroppo.org/-/media/fake_email.htm as an example

    Animated tutorials are incredibly user friendly. For the Visual Tutorials I used the freely available Wink.


  18. blah
    June 9, 2006 at 8:00 am

    I’d like to see a tutorial, where one gets the simplest possible information with a link at the end: “Opera has lots more to offer. Do you want to learn something new?” or “Opera can make your browsing easier. Do you want to learn something new?” And each page should cover more and more complicated things. Such a tutorial should start with something like plain old “button” browsing. Using tabs maybe. The Wand. And then maybe some mousegestures, some notes, some widgets and such.

  19. June 9, 2006 at 8:02 am

    Writing a grandma-proof Opera tutorial is a tricky job! As mentioned by others, one thing I would definitely suggest is using plenty of screenshots, or Flash Tutorials. My personal preferred method of writing a tutorial is task-based: what do you want to do, what steps do you take, and what can Opera do to make those things easier for you.

    For example: If you like a site, and want to return there later, use a bookmark! Followed by an explanation of how the bookmarks work, and how things become easy with nicknames.

    I tried that approach with my Opera 8 introduction tutorial, which is definitely not granny-proof, but shows you what I mean.

    Good luck with the tutorial!

  20. Stahn
    June 9, 2006 at 9:17 am

    I think a major rewrite in Opera’s functions are needed for Opera to be “casual user” friendly. Firefox is “casual user” friendly. Opera… isn’t, but isn’t too far from there.

    Using videos in Flash or lots of images are a must.

  21. June 9, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    “This has nothing to do with seniors or grandmothers, it’s for **non-tech-savvy** users — regardless of age.”

    Well, I’m certain of that age is a pretty big factor here. I think the younger audience would like some tips and explaining, and some flash… As said before seniors just want it to work, they don’t care how and are not intressted in advanced features.

    But we also need to understand how such a tutorial would work. As I said in my first comment I think it definitely should be printable, and that’s not so doable with flash. My mom is new to computers and she writes down everything she does so she could remember it later.

    I’ve put rogether a little quick scetch of how such a chart could look like. I didn’t know which shortcuts to include and didn’t got so much time, so there’s some more work to be done.

    But yet again, you must define the targetgroup, non-tech-savvy is a pretty big one.

  22. Joey A. Tyson
    June 10, 2006 at 10:40 am

    I just want to say that I think you’re dead-on in asking for a user-friendly intro to Opera. I installed Opera on my Dad’s new computer, and my Mom has come to hate it. Part of her dislike comes from some weird issues Opera has had with Windows Media Player, but in general it’s just hard for her to adjust. So many end users are so used to IE and often don’t even like the learning curve of Firefox. (I purposefully setup Firefox’s toolbars to look like IE’s when I’m setting it up for a new user.) I don’t want Opera to be more like IE, but we need a way to give your average end user a smoother transition.

  23. amen
    June 12, 2006 at 4:54 am

    I think the tutorial on Opera’s web site is a good thing to start with. Just drop the advanced stuff and rearrange the rest a little and granny should be able to swallow it.

  24. amen
    June 12, 2006 at 5:10 am

    Oh, I must add, actually I have a pretty strong feeling that Opera under Windows can hardly be adapted or configured for a dumbuser because of the glitches with the multimedia and office apps. Firefox and Thunderbird click better for dumbusers under Windows, there’s no denying that.

    Under Linux, on the other hand, Opera is a very good choice for a primary Internet GUI application for dumb and power users alike, particularly when not using KDE.

    (Sorry Mac-fans, I last saw your OS ten years ago so I can’t comment)

  25. June 13, 2006 at 2:41 am

    I’ve long felt that Opera’s default toolbar options was just too far away from the items I would have considered “standard”. I think this one particuar issue is a key problem for getting new users to stick with Opera for more than thirty seconds (I actually posted a configuration guide a while back, not that it’s “grandma friendly”).

    Ultimately we can’t guess what to put into a grandma-friendly tutorial unless someone is able to get some feedback from net-using grandmas!

  1. June 8, 2006 at 10:30 pm
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