A “non-computer person/user” is kind of a vague term, but I lump non-computer people into that category of: “I need to access computers, but I’m not sure how to set it up and I don’t really know what this thing really does nor do I care so long as it does its job.”
A lot of people in my office want me to fix things for them (such as locating a printer and setting it as their preferred printer) rather than them learning how to do it themselves. Honestly, most questions for computers (the basic ones), can be answered through Google (what I use when I’m not 100% positive on how to do something, but I am 100% that someone else has done it before, and has advised the online community of how to proceed).
These non-computer people are not known for using Google, and if they do, they probably don’t know how to use Google well: meaning that they may spend hours and hours going in circles trying to decipher search results to find what they want and apply it to their situation.
So, how do you help these people?
You need to listen to them, and you need to be patient. I know, that’s a difficult thing to do, but it’s necessary. I struggle with it too, but it’s far better in the long-run for you and the non-computer user.
1. Ask them what they’re trying to do.
Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you have a have an idea of what the computer can and cannot accomplish for users who are working at the most basic level: meaning that if the user says they want the computer to self-destruct if someone who doesn’t know the password attempts to enter, you can advise them that the computer cannot do that with out specific hardware and software alterations that may void the computer’s warranty, and also may potentially result in some kind of legal repercussions – just saying.
2. Make them drive.
Talk them through the process, but don’t take over their mouse unless you absolutely need to. Perhaps you take over for a second in order to pin certain programs to their taskbar, but most everything should be done by their own efforts – how else will they learn? Which leads to the final point:
3. Help them do it, don’t do it for them.
The idea of “Learning-By-Doing” is strongly upheld in multiple fields, and computers are no different. I believe that these non-computer users will always understand something better if they do it themselves. Even if they do it wrong the first 5 or 10+ times, it’s better than the user being dependent on others who may or may not be available when they need help the most.