So, I'm sure you've seen Scoble post on what advanced users need
, and responses like Jeff Key's
, Richard Tallent's
, Andy Hopper's
, and Larry O'Brien
. Here's why I think that labeling users as "Advanced", "Beginner", "Blue-square", or "Rob" is a bad idea. (unless their actual name is
"Beginner", or whatever)
I'm a great cook, even though I don't cook much anymore (now that my wife has surpassed me I refuse to cook lest the comparisons begin). If someone asked me if I was an "advanced" oven user, I'd say "yes" without hesitation, then prove it by letting my wife whip up something delicious. I know what temperature I want to use, why I want to use that temperature, how long to keep it there, and to not touch the hot burny type things unless supervised by an adult.
But I'm also an idiot. I know, you don't believe me, but I always turn the oven on without looking in it. That wouldn't be bad, except for the fact that 99% of the time there's a broiler pan or cookie sheet in there, and I burn something or have to juggle multiple things when putting my masterpiece in. You'd think I'd learn, but I don't - or at least haven't yet after hundreds of lessons. Now, would most people find it annoying if their oven forced them to open and close the door (ostensibly making them look into it) before turning it on? Yes. Would that same option save me problems almost every day? Yes.
However, if the salesman had said "this oven is set up for advanced users", I'd have bought it, when what he meant was "This oven allows you to turn it on without looking into it and burning the french toast you put into it to keep it slightly warm this morning" - Heck, I am an advanced user, and even if I weren't, I'd probably still think I was. Even if I knew I wasn't, I wouldn't want the "beginner oven", thinking it would annoy me with it's "I know better than you - look into me, then I'll turn on" settings. Damn condescending oven. Others might be (truly) advanced but want the beginner model because it would be simpler to use - or so they thought, until they tried to turn the oven on. "I still know there's nothing in here, you stupid oven!" they would shout. But they might like the huge playskool-style dials.
So back to software (finally): If you ask a user if they're advanced, the answer they give will have nothing to do with the settings you're trying to determine . What makes a Photoshop user advanced; intimate knowledge of layout and the Pantone color system (even though they have no idea what "double-click " means) - or the incredible ability to perform application navigation and functions (but confusion over what the heck a specular highlight is)?
The truth is, the "advanced" label is not useful. In windows settings terms, you simply can't guess at what will make a user feel as though have the perfect balance between power and ease. What you can do is aim for defaults that cause the majority of people minimal confusion (hopefully achieve some intuitive functionality), and allow easy customization to let that one specific person find their own balance.
That said, here's what I want as an "advanced user":
- On initial install, set windows resolution to the right value
Yes, Scoble definitely got this right. Not doing this is really, really annoying. Richard Simmons Alarm Clock annoying.
- Customization of functionality should be easy to find
Some apps allow you to change sounds for events - these sound settings show up in the application settings, and in the system "sound" settings. I like this. How about customizations "near the function", and in one repository available through the control panel. Apps could opt in to adding and retrieving user settable options from this store, which is easy for a user to maintain (unlike the registry). While I can already see some problems with this, the ease with witch one can change options is much more important than the number of options available. In fact, options that are hard to set or find means you can't have too many of them.
- Ability to save, restore, and migrate all these customizations to other computers.
I no longer customize VS.NET because it's so frustrating to move these options around. If I get used to my own key bindings, I can't use the default settings easily -- and I can't move my settings easily either -- so I just get used to the default.
From ThisIsBroken, comes this
I know I feel like this scene from Vancouver is accurate some days.