What type of user should we aim for?

Type of users

It’s easy, aim for the middle one.

Well… let me explain. Usually there is one question that sooner or later will crop up when we are designing Apps or software. And usually that question comes up because there is not enough user profiling being done or else it wouldn’t be a question. “Should we make this for the expert or novice user?”

There is such things as budget constraints, or that job just to pay up salaries, or you are doing an app recreationally, etc, so you have to work with something.

Novice, intermediate and experienced.

There is one rule of thumb here. Always point to the intermediate user. Why? Read below.

The novice user

This type of user is struggling not only to know how to work the app or software, but probably how to work the device itself. It requires detailed attention, it’s probably not tech savy and they are the sole reason tutorials exist. But if you design with this type of user as a focus, a very specific work has to be done because you would have to get rid of all the assumptions you would have about software and well… we all started somewhere.

Designing for the novice could definitely be done of course, if that’s the intended target, but if not… think of the next level of users…

The Intermediate

This is the mainstream! This is where the bigger percentage of users fit. Why, you ask? Because if you keep working the software or app you will always get more experienced and cease to be a noob, that’s why! Unless you stop using software, or devices you will always become more experienced.

Now picture opening a software at work, or an app on the bus, and having to go through tutorials, tool tips and easy to digest information EVERY SINGLE TIME you open the app. Not so fun being considered a novice is it?

This is the type most of us fit into. We can work fairly well a word processor, a productivity app, we can go about our business in our OS, saving copying, pasting, using some keyboard shortcuts. We feel comfortable enough around most software and comfortable with the things we use everyday.

One other thing to consider before going to the next one. While you will certainly evolve from novice to a mainstream user, from mainstream to expert is not a sure thing and the great percentage of us people, will stick being an intermediate user. Users won’t bother that much becoming experts unless they really have to. Think of the software you use, or the productivity apps you use. Do you remember ever using all the features Word, or Excel has? or all the features Photoshop has? Do you use almost all the features of your smartphone? Do you know most shortcuts or gestures? Not really. That’s because most of the time we are comfortable with what we are used to, we crave for simplicity so most of the time we won’t bother to become an expert unless it’s demanded.

The Expert

Oh how would the world be funny if everything was designed for experts. Experts want everything! If you would ask for an expert for the essential features for a determined software this is how software would look like:

Expert users want airplane cockpits

We only become experts through necessity. An engineer that focus on a determined platform. A designer that almost exclusively works on iconography and uses almost exclusively a vector app. And that only if you really take the time to explore the software or app. An expert smartphone user is someone that goes beyond using it for daily tasks, or recreational tasks.

They will ask for intricate features that they alone would know how to work! So picture a novice or intermediate using that cockpit everyday! Experts will add a layer of complexity because they themselves use “obscure” feature and feel they are needed.

Again, of it is your intended user for the software, be sure to target these users properly, but they are indeed few percentage compared to Intermediate users or even novice users.

So, it’s easy, aim for the middle one.

I think I told you that in the beginning didn’t I? There you have it. Most of the time, whenever the question crops up “Should we make a tutorial here? Should we hint or make it easy for the first time users? Should we cram every possible feature here?” Most of the time is a resounding NO! Carefully analyze the situation and think on the intermediate users. And at least you will be aiming a bit better.

Design for everyone, optimize for intermediates

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