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|Amber Brooks • 5/09/16|
The Short Version: A website can be intimidating if you don’t know how it works, so Steve Black created TechBoomers as an easy way to learn about popular sites and apps. TechBoomers was intended to help Baby Boomers like Steve’s parents, but he soon expanded its online audience to anyone curious about brands like Facebook or Tinder. Simple step-by-step tutorials take readers through basic features and safety tips in a comprehensive resource of introductory material.
Whenever I visit my parents, I somehow always end up either explaining how the web works or solving some technological quandary of theirs. It’s an endless stream of questions and confusion. The day I got my mom to remember the difference between “uploading” and “downloading” was a personal coup.
One time, I’d had just about enough. Dad looked up from his phone and wondered aloud to the room (in my general direction): “How do I stop people from seeing my pictures on Facebook?”
“Change your settings,” I said.
“How?” he asked.
“Gee, Dad, if only there was a handheld device that could access all the information in the world,” I replied tersely, “then you could ask that.”
He looked down at the phone in his hand, and then back at me. His eyes twinkled. “Do you kids just go to the Internet for everything?”
On behalf of my generation, I nodded. “Pretty much.”
All too often, parents rely on their kids for tech information just as those kids rely on the Internet. To ease this generational tension and cut out the middleman, TechBoomers has arisen as an online resource. This site uses clear terminology to translate the web for novices.
In 2014, Steve Black noticed a lot of people were searching for things like “How to Use Facebook,” without getting an adequate answer. So he decided to pull a team together to provide one.
He founded a website that today has thousands of video and article tutorials detailing how popular websites work.
“We really decided to focus on websites and apps that can improve the quality of life for older adults,” he said.
This hub of information makes the online world more open to beginners. You can choose to go step-by-step through the tutorials or bounce around to only the questions that interest you. All courses are easily accessed and totally free.
Steve’s background is in software development, online marketing, and poker. Years back, he blended these skill sets to create a social network for poker players called Pokerspace.com. However, he soon hungered for a broader range and wider appeal.
He was looking for an idea, and it came to him from his parents.
While attempting to teach his mom and dad how to Skype with their grandchild (his nephew), Steve realized there was a dearth of resources for basic questions like “How Does Skype Work?”
“Basically I was looking for a website where they could self-learn,” he remembers, “and I couldn’t really find anything.”
So he used his experience with start-ups and search engine optimization to change that. Steve built an extensive educative resource where those unfamiliar with the web could go to learn what’s popular and how it works.
Beginning this endeavor in October of 2014, the team launched the site in January of the next year. Since then, TechBoomers has grown in traffic at a rate of around 25% month over month.
“We’ve positioned ourselves to not just be a stand-alone solution for you, but to expand your horizons of the different websites and apps that you use,” Steve said.
This gives adults greater autonomy, which means the ability to answer their own question without pestering their kids.
Although its name is a nod to the Baby Boomer generation, TechBoomers doesn’t only serve one age demographic. Any newbie looking to learn about a website is welcome. Even Millennials don’t know everything about every site out there. Useful tutorials like “How to Delete Your Match Account” often appeal to a wider audience online.
Steve said because of frequent Google searches, people of all ages end up reading through these web tutorials. He estimates that older adults actually represent less than half of all traffic on the site.
The TechBoomers team is small, but deeply committed. Steve fosters an easygoing and self-motivated work environment that streamlines digital literacy.
“I’m not a fan of micromanaging. Everybody has their daily and weekly tasks, and we all work from home,” he said.
Backed by social media expertise, web design mastery, and marketing know-how, TechBoomers is able to generate a high level of content every week. Maintaining and updating the tutorials falls primarily on the shoulders of one person.
Corbin Hartwick, Education Content Writer, was hired early on and soon put in charge of all the content that goes on the site.
In abundantly clear terms, he introduces readers to how different websites work, outlining all the features and facets that people commonly wonder about. The site grows as fast as Corbin can write it, typically churning out a new tutorial every two to three hours.
“We put up a new course every Monday, which usually includes 10+ tutorials as well as guests posts on the side that he’s writing,” Steve said. “He’s amazing. He’s the backbone of TechBoomers, that’s for sure.”
As far as I can tell, the older generation wants to be part of the digital world, but they don’t know where to start.
TechBoomers is an ideal starting point. It’s made to answer any beginner question and explain any basic web function in categories ranging from online shopping to online dating. Over 1,000 tutorials await visitors today, and that number is always growing.
TechBoomers’ content is very much driven by the needs of real people on the web. Getting inspiration from Facebook polls, comments from its readership, and popular Google searches, this team has generated a long list of potential courses to add in the future.
“It’s a lot to cover,” Steve says. “We try to keep a good balance of the different types of courses that we have.” So it’s not all apps or all social media, but a good mix and representation of what’s in-demand online.
Want to know how to sign up to TechBoomers? There’s a tutorial for that, too! You don’t need to sign up to view any of the tutorials, however, because those are free to the public. But if you want to sign up to keep track of your progress or subscribe to their newsletter, all you need is a valid Facebook, Google+, or email account.
From the Onion to LinkedIn, these tutorials certainly have a wide array of courses available. In the category of dating websites, TechBoomers is looking to expand further with popular sites such as Plenty of Fish and OkCupid.
Particular attention is paid to privacy because Steve knows how prevalent that concern is with anyone new to technology. Internet 101 Courses explain how to protect yourself online and how to maintain your privacy.
“In each of our courses,” he explains, “whenever there’s any safety or privacy concerns, we try to bring them up in a separate tutorial within the course.”
This website is a strong educative force, increasing the accessibility of online tools that may seem intimidating to certain users.
To further its reach, TechBoomers partners with libraries and other organizations that focus on digital literacy. Librarians frequently use this site as a teaching supplement, assigning homework and referencing tutorials to better explain their lessons.
The website’s content serves individuals seeking information but also helps small libraries struggling to handle the web. Librarians use TechBoomers to augment their classes on various digital topics.
Steve is happy to partner with libraries to facilitate such education. This is an area he feels strongly about, participating in committees and attending events that bolster educating people about online tools.
“We want to go beyond just how to use websites and apps,” he said. “Our long-term goal is to become a news source — and not just teach how to use technology but keep older adults informed about technology.”
If Facebook changes its privacy settings, for example, Steve wants to clearly explain how it works and why you should care about it.
Enlightening users of all ages with important information, TechBoomers is heavily involved in the digital inclusion push. Its online audience stays updated with an in-depth technological education that empowers them to self-learn online.
With plain language and comprehensive guides, TechBoomers offers everyone the information and opportunity to use technology better. From social media to dating websites, this resource includes a wide variety of tutorials so that Baby Boomers and neophytes alike can learn about how popular websites work.
Helping people better understand and use technology, this website serves a vital role in an increasingly tech-reliant society.
“Keeping our audience motivated and engaged about technology is important,” Steve said, adding, “That’s a big part of digital literacy.”