Identifying users

May 13, 2008

For those reading the Planet consistently as of late, you’ll notice that Celeste has been on a tear.  She’s discussed user research profiles, use scenarios and use cases, user types (Plasma) and user types (Okular).  Now, as a member of the elusive Marketing Working Group, remember that we’ve always declared ourselves “participative” – meaning we welcome people to ask questions and look for guidance/help/strategy.  It’s great to see community members like Celeste go beyond “participative” and find ways to positively and constructively engage groups without waiting.  The nefarious MWG could probably takes notes.

In the interim, I would like to remind everyone that such concepts to assist with usability – don’t have to stop at usability.  User identification, profiling, investigation and interviewing at its fullest starts to sound quite like learning about a target audience.  The basic tenets of marketing can be simplified to “Know your user (customer) and know what they want.”  The more that you understand your user base, you can not only make a better application, but write better contextual help, documentation, web sites, blog entries, news letters and press releases.  Even our intrepid translation team may choose different phrasing options based on the end user.

Would you write in the same style with the same goals for KDE-edu and KOffice?  Within KDE-edu would you write the same for Kanagram (young user or Ade) as you would for Step (physics student)?  Within KOffice would you write the same for Karbon14 (graphics) audiences as you would for KPlato (project related)?

I think about such things daily at work, where I have application teams assembling portlet applications that have radically different user groups: Internal call center agents, general personnel, executives, external brokers and members (over 50 years old).  For every site or application, we have our business analysts work on user identification before turning documentation over to our design firm for branding, our tech writers for documentation, our creative writers for copy/content, legal for text approval and user groups for feedback mechanisms.  Even our quality assurance groups need to be aware of our target audience (CSS for font sizes and contrast will be different for different “communities”, test different screen resolutions for different user bases, etc).  Even further, we tune and optimize for different user bases (clicks-per-minute, length of session, caching options, LoadRunner settings during performance testing, etc).

Better understanding who your users are and what they want is so critical to being successful and building a community around your project.  Just because you may discover something during usability investigation, don’t set those results to the side too quickly.

One Response to “Identifying users”


  1. […] Identifying users For those reading the Planet consistently as of late, you’ll notice that Celeste has been on a tear.  […] […]


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