How should the interface/product/sw design’ cater to the needs of beginners, intermediates & experts?
While it’s inevitable that everyone begins as beginners, nobody wants to be a beginner for long. Beginners must quickly become intermediates, or else…
At the same time, if the interaction design is way too complex, it might just scare the beginner off. Therefore, the elements of “discoverability” and “learn-ability” must greet the beginner.
While detailed “online help” wont work for beginners, “Intuitive Dialog boxes” listing down the different kinds of basic tasks which an user might perform could greet the user, as soon as the software is launched.
Eg: Dreamweaver MX & MX 2004 throws up a window contain a set of links, which an user is most likely to click on
Beginners will be focused on learning the basic concepts & scope of the product.
The design also needs to be in sync with the beginner’s mental model.
If the interaction design is way too easy, experts will quickly get bored. Experts would skip steps, look for faster ways of getting tasks accomplished, look for a lotta keyboard short cuts etc…
In many cases, customers who make ‘software purchase decisions’ rely on an expert’s opinion. So, its important to get an expert recommends your product.
Intermediates would look at learning and applying their learnings in different ways as possible. They would play around with the available features get see how fast they can get the job done.
Intermediates appreciate “Tool Tips” and reference materials.
While the learning curve is so steep for the beginners, its kind of stabilizes for intermediates and dips for experts.
Intermediates quickly get a hang of the most important tasks, but very few of them graduate to the expert level. They are aware of other available features, which they’d aspire to learn in future.
In terms of ratio – 20: 60 : 20 can be assigned for Beginner, Intermediates and Experts.