Types of Users Don’t Matter, What They Want to Do Does

I heard someone say today that such-and-such function was for a user with no technical competence.

This immediately struck me as odd, given that I thought we were talking about the persona often referred to as “the business user,” i.e. someone for whom writing code is not a job function that will be using your software. You may know this persona already, since much time and energy has unfortunately gone into writing software to convert this person into a developer.

I think the point was that the software was easy to use to perform a function that is generally considered an administrative one. Generalizing again, I consider an administrative function is anyone that the user either cannot perform on purpose because that was design or does not want to perform because the function is tedious, difficult, frustrating, dangerous, “not my job,” etc.

Still, it’s safe to assume that there are no users with no technical competence. Given the worldwide penetration of mobile phones, which has opened up the intertubes to billions, I’m willing to make that assumption. If someone has landed on your product, you go ahead and assume that person has some level of technical competence.

That said, I also agree with the myth of the sophisticated user.

Contradiction? Not really. I’m in favor of assuming users want to do something and building for those functions, rather than creating assumptions about their technical savvy or lack thereof. The results of the latter too often place no design importance on so-called power user/admin interfaces because fewer people will use them and the users will be sophisticated.

Sophisticated users appreciate design too, perhaps more so, given their experience.

Anyway, food for thought.

Find the comments.




  1. I like the designs (Google search comes to mind) that provide a simple way for you to perform a basic function, but also offer ways to dig down and perform much more advanced tasks. The same user might use the same function in different ways at different times.

  2. You’re proving the problem here. People want simplicity and power all in one interface, and there’s no segmentation by type of user. I like to err on the side of simplicity, since simple is (should be) easier to understand without training.

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