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New Customers, Regular Users, or Power Users. Who to design for?

๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐— ๐—ถ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฎ๐—ธ๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—œ ๐—ฆ๐—ฒ๐—ฒ ๐—ง๐—ผ๐—ผ ๐—ข๐—ณ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ป
Sometimes software is very complicated to use for ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐˜„ ๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€ because it is so powerful. Itโ€™s not a bad thing to include a lot of features but it can be intimidating and chase away new customers who are unwilling to climb the learning curve necessary to accomplish their intended purpose.

Sometimes I see software that is excellently designed to bring on new users. Everything is simplified. However, it can be very frustrating for ๐—ฝ๐—ผ๐˜„๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€ who know what they are doing when things are too โ€œdumbed downโ€.

It can be very hard to strike the perfect balance between new users and power users.

๐——๐—ฒ๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ฏ๐˜† ๐—˜๐—ป๐—ด๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€
When I was at Microsoft I was given the responsibility for the release of a software product to facilitate synchronization of data for their mobile devices. It was a difficult product to build because we had so many external dependencies on software from other teams. Although the development team did an excellent job of making things work it was designed by the engineers as a set of tools with all of the beauty of a basic set of wrenches.

I figured that we had three sets of customers. New users just wanted our product to work but had problems because of all of the technical setup they were asked to complete. Ongoing users wanted simple ways to control some of their basic data but often got lost in too much detail. Power users wanted detailed control, just like our engineers who built the software, and thatโ€™s what they got. For power users a set of tools is perfect.

But we needed a design that would satisfy all three sets of customers.

๐——๐—ฒ๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ป ๐—ฆ๐—ผ๐—น๐˜‚๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป
The design solution that I came up with broke the product down into three layers. One layer was designed to bring on new users. The next layer was designed for ongoing users that were learning to bring more control to their experience. The deepest layer was to enable power users to find all of the control that they wanted.

๐—ก๐—ฒ๐˜„ ๐—จ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€
Without new customers you have a problem. You must design for them. So, our design was targeted at these critical users and right from the start the product just worked. We choose the best default settings for the majority of new users. When new customers tried our product they very quickly found success in accomplishing what they wanted to achieve.

๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐—ด๐˜‚๐—น๐—ฎ๐—ฟ ๐—จ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€
Regular users want a bit more control. We provided an easy way to explore general settings from within each feature or within the menus (but we never had the same thing in two different places). These were designed to teach new users how to get more out of our software. They had the flavor of a mix between a tutorial and an easy to understand set of controls.

Our goal was to bring users deeper into the use of our software as a journey towards more advanced capability. We saw our customers as if they were on a journey up a learning curve and we helped them along the way. The guidance was not obtrusive so that once you knew what you were doing it was easy to change settings. But our goal was to help people learn to get the most out of our software.

๐—ฃ๐—ผ๐˜„๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐—จ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€
Some of our users were very skilled. These are important customers. We gave them a sort of semi-secret back door into the detailed inner workings of our software. They seemed to enjoy the feeling of hidden power. We didnโ€™t bother them with tutorials or long explanations but just gave them direct control of everything they wanted. Guidance was available in "Help" but we didnโ€™t bother power users by putting it in their way.

These more complex settings were harder to find, because we didnโ€™t want them to get in the way of confused newer users, but our expert customers knew right where to find them. It wasnโ€™t hard but just tucked a bit out of the way and easy to access if you knew what you were doing.

โ€œ๐— ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐˜€๐—ผ๐—ณ๐˜ ๐—™๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐—น๐—น๐˜† ๐—š๐—ฒ๐˜๐˜€ ๐—œ๐˜ ๐—ฅ๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ต๐˜โ€
I was very proud when the most important leading media outlet released the headline of their review that said, โ€œMicrosoft Finally Gets It Rightโ€. Our engineers had worked so tremendously hard to build a great product but the previous design kept it from getting favorable reviews. In fact, people didnโ€™t like our product at all until the redesign even though most of the functionality was already there. It was very rewarding to see that this philosophy of design caused such a positive change in opinion.

I will always design my products with my customers at heart. I think that we all do. However, we often have multiple customers to consider. Using a multi-tiered design philosophy can really help. It allows you to give each group of customers exactly what they want. And it makes for happy customers.

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