One of the usability principles our design team at RightIndem follow is the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle. We approach design in a way that is fluid, self-evident and straightforward. We have a clear understanding of our users and their emotions and potential distractions. This knowledge validates our use of KISS. When adopting KISS, it’s crucial to target your product or service to the correct user group. Identifying this user group should happen as early in your design process as possible, ideally taking place while requirements are scoped. This ensures prior to a shape being drawn in Sketch or ink being absorbed in paper, your design starting point will head in the right direction.
So, what are user groups and how do they differ?
Users can generally be split into three groups. These are Expert Users, Willing Adopters and Mainstreamers.
Expert users have an expert attitude and when they receive a product or application for the first time they seek to uncover all its features, settings and customisations. They tend to adopt 1st generation devices without fear and push products or applications to their limits. They customise the product moving away from all shipped defaults. If you’re designing a mobile camera app, these are users that will firstly explore aperture settings, depth of field, HDR etc. they won’t just point and shoot. Although we all know an expert user, in reality there are very few of these user types.
Willing Adopters are users with some confidence and an existing mental model that allows them to explore product settings if they wish. They like to upgrade their products or services rather than adopting the new and unknown, preferring to wait for 2nd or 3rd gen devices becoming available. They rarely seek new features and will only use new or more sophisticated features if it offers them a clear, tangible benefit. Their tolerance for learning is low and there are few of these user types.
This is the third and final group and the majority of all users. Mainstreamers use a product or application to get a job done. They will typically learn some features of the product but overtime rarely build on their knowledge. Mainstreamers just want things to work. Their behaviour with a mobile camera app will be simple: open app > take photograph > close app. They’re not interested in advanced settings, customisations or features. Mainstreamers will often overlook visual aesthetics if the product delivers. They pay little attention to design; however they are more forgiving of mistakes or bugs than Expert Users and Willing Adopters. The majority of people fall into this group.
Due to people’s attitude towards products, there’s little graduation of users from one user group to the next. For instance, if you take a group of people who use Google Analytics you’ll find some users that have explored all the features it has to offer, others that have one or two specialist reports set up to run weekly or monthly reports, and others who just use it as a traffic count. Even after many years of use, these groups will remain largely the same as it’s the attitude and personality of the person that classifies them and not their years of experience with a product.
So, which is the best group to design for?
It’s tempting to design for Expert Users. Designing for Expert Users means you cover all basis. Your product is thorough and from a sales perspective you have confidence knowing it will deliver on every possible user feature. However, designing for Expert Users brings complexity and time and complexity is the opposite of KISS. Too often, people over-complicate design in an attempt to display their intelligence, when in reality this pushes users away, ultimately towards a competitor product that is easier to use. Another issue when designing for Expert Users is that their needs and experiences are so far different from mainstreamers. They want things that mainstreamers simply do not care about. The risk of designing for expert users is a product or application that is too complex for mainstreamers (the majority) to use.
When designing for the mainstreamers you’re designing for the mass market. The Ford Model T is a classic example of designing for the masses. It was not the first car ever built, however it was the first to put simplicity at the heart of its vision. It’s intention:
We will build a motor car for the great multitude. It will be…small enough for the individual to run and care for…But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one. — Henry Ford on the Ford Model T
KISS revolves around a simple, intuitive design experience that allows users to complete their tasks with relative ease. The advantage of the KISS principle is that it shapes your attitudes and design thinking from the outset meaning all decisions are made to produce a simple and engaging experience for your user. Designing for simplicity means designing for mainstreamers.